Monday, June 30, 2014

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" Review

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

Michael Bay’s “Transformers” film franchise has been strange to say the least, especially for a franchise based upon a toy line by Hasbro. Knowing Michael Bay, I knew this would be unrelenting, hyper-kinetic and overly-silly and through it all I tried to keep an open mind. I liked the first movie, detested the second film with a fierily passion and thought the third film was a step in a better direction, but that third film still was not perfect. Each film has a laundry list of problems, problems I feel that if they didn’t exist, the franchise would have been much stronger overall. They are overly-long, they feature vulgar humor, some of the robots have strange personalities, and most of all, Bay tries to juggle way too much at once with his stories. This is not at all what I expected with a franchise of movies about massive, morphing robots. But hey, that’s Michael Bay for you.

I am well aware that “Transformers: Age of Existinction” made $100 million at the box office over the weekend. Already, I can imagine more than 90% of my readers have already seen this film for themselves. I have read some repulsive reviews for the movie already, but that is standard operating procedure for “Transformers” films, and I just had to see the film for myself, despite the bad word. So, I maybe repeating what you all already know, but I just had to see the film for myself.

Everything I mentioned above that is wrong with this franchise; Michael Bay puts on steroids for this fourth installment. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is a self-parody, a horrendous miscalculation of everything Bay did with this series up to this point. Once again, Bay is in a dire need for an editor, as the film quickly wares out its welcome. What’s worse is that Bay decided to shoehorn in so many sub-plots that by the time the film was over, I had a severe migraine. What blows my mind is that for every single one of these movies, Bay seems to forget his target audience. Why would children want to see loads of sub-plots all wrapping around a master plot that is hard to follow? Why would they want to sit in their seat for over two hours? Why fill your film with a bunch of useless garbage that you won’t even discuss later? This target audience only wants one thing, some great robot fights; the problem is we have to watch a near three hour movie to get to the good stuff. I think Bay gets way too carried away with the spectacle and then he forgets about logic, narrative and character.

What is most disappointing is that the cool stuff that drawing people to the theater is barely in the movie at all. While I was watching the previews for “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” I was drawn in by the Dinobots. Finally, after three movies, we were going to see Dinobots in the fourth installment. But once Optimus Prime sets them free and they are fighting, they are gone before we really get to know them and what they are capable of. I felt that was a complete embarrassment and coy decision by the entire creative team, and I have only begun to scratch the surface of the film’s problems.

The film follows Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), an amateur inventor who buys a big-rig truck to see what he can get out of it, despite the pleads from his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), who he is trying to get through college. Yeager soon finds out that he found Optimus Prime (voiced again by Peter Cullen), who has been in hiding for five years after the Battle of Chicago. The CIA has created a black-ops group to destroy all Transformers, both Autobot and Decepticon, for their ongoing war on Earth. This crusade is led by Agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and Savoy (Titus Welliver). Their secret weapon is a bounty hunter Transformer named Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan). Soon Savoy is at Yeager’s door, and Optimus helps him and his family escape safely.

But this is a “Transformers” movie. Better yet, this is Michael Bay “Transformers” movie. So of course Attinger has alternative motives as does Lockdown which involves a scientist named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). Of course, both motives for each of these characters are different and can only mean more destruction for Earth. All of that is plenty for a “Transformers” movie, but then you add in the Dinobots and The Creators and Transformium and half a dozen other needless subplots and you quickly learn how exhausting an experience this fourth film was. Never in the history of this franchise has a film been such a bloated mess. I think Wahlberg does what he can as the new face for this franchise. I will even go as far to say that a sword-wielding Wahlberg makes more thematic sense than a screaming Shia Labeouf. But this story is so congested and boring that the talents of Wahlberg, Grammer and Tucci are all but wasted. Sadly neither Nicola Peltz nor her secret boyfriend played by Jack Reynor is interesting enough to make up for anything.

It is sad that film likes this just makes bank on principle. Are we living in an age where people will swallow the hype and allow bad movies to break records? It certainly seems that way. I think more than any other movie in this franchise, “Age of Instinct ion” could be the massive clunker in the franchise. I am almost tempted to take a look at “Revenge of the Fallen” once more to make sure I am correct. “Revenge of the Fallen” may have been insulting in several ways, but the storyline in this fourth film is so boring, so disastrous, so incoherent that I don’t think I can manage sitting through it again. I truly believe somebody needs to pull the plug on this franchise or hand it over to someone who better understands this concept, leave Bay to his childish ways. This fourth film is a waste of time, through and through. Its not an adventurous film, its not a fun film, and the amount of time you have to waste to really see the robot fights is daunting. If the robot fights are all you care about, wait for redbox and be prepared to fast forward.

FINAL GRADE: D-

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Overlooked Film of the Week" "Boiler Room" (2000)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#63

Boiler Room

“ I read this article a while back, that said that Microsoft employs more millionaire secretary's that any other company in the world. They took stock options over Christmas bonuses. It was a good move. I remember there was this picture, of one of the groundskeepers next to his Ferrari. Blew my mind. you see shit like that, and it just plants seeds, makes you think its possible, even easy. And then you turn on the TV, and there's just more of it. The $87 Million lottery winner, that kid actor that just made 20 million o his last movie, that internet stock that shot through the roof, you could have made millions if you had just gotten in early, and that's exactly what I wanted to do: get in. I didn't want to be an innovator any more, I just wanted to make the quick and easy buck, I just wanted in. The Notorious BIG said it best: "Either you're slingin' crack-rock, or you've got a wicked jump-shot." Nobody wants to work for it anymore. There's no honor in taking that after school job at Mickey Dee's, honor's in the dollar, kid. So I went the white boy way of slinging crack-rock: I became a stock broker.

This quote by Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) opens “Boiler Room” in wicked style. Especially as we are watching Davis in a big bus, being followed by three or so more big buses. The buses stop at a luxurious hotel as several men in suits come piling out, leaving all of their manors on the buses. There is a big celebration going on for the Stock Company J.T. Marlin. I think the quote above pretty much delivers exactly what you are in for while watching the upcoming hours of “Boiler Room.” This is a movie about a guy who so desperately wanted to get rich, in the quickest way possible. That need to make bags of money lead to less moral thinking and more greed.  Two words could sum up “Boiler Room” in a nutshell, desperation and greed.

After the crazy opening, we go back in time a little bit. We reconnect with Seth and see that while he was in college, more like drifting through college, he was running an illegal casino out of his college house. He was making good money, but that did not make his business any less legal. It was especially risky since his father (Ron Rifkin) is a prestigious judge. When an old friend Greg (Nicky Katt) visits Seth’s casino, even he has his hesitations about what Seth is doing, so he invites him to interview at his stock firm called J.T. Marlin. In an act to impress his father, he accepts Greg’s offer, and before he knows it, he is off to become a stock broker at J.T. Marlin. While he rises fast, he slowly but surely discovers that J.T. Marlin is not a legitimate firm, but a pump-and-dump scheme that is highly organized.

I know what you are thinking, this sounds almost exactly like “Wall Street” from 1987 which starred Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas. Yes, both films are quite similar, and I particularly love the scene where Seth is invited to work party and finds all of his co-workers not only watching “Wall Street,” but taking turns quoting the movie. It is obvious that “Wall Street” was a huge influence on the making of “Boiler Room,” but both films are quite different too. “Wall Street” does a good job of plunging the audience into the world of stock broker’s firms. Even though Michael Douglas’ character happens to be corrupt, it is still a detailed look at that particular world. “Boiler Room” is about a guy who wants money bad, and on his journey to riches, he gets in over his head.

The cast is impeccably amazing; there are no two ways about it. Besides Ribisi and Rifkin, the filled with the most top-knotch, young supporting actors of the era. It is a cast that includes Vin Diesel, Scott Caan, Jamie Kennedy, and Nia Long. It is wonderful cast and they all bring their A-game to this production. Then there is Ben Affleck, yes Ben Affleck is in this movie and he totally kills it. He only has a few scenes in the movie, but he steals the show in his small group of scenes. Take a look for yourself:


See what I mean? Anybody who has any doubt about Ben Affleck as Batman can shut up now. I know Affleck has disappointed in the past, but when he really clicks with material, the result is engrossing. Such is the case with “Boiler Room.”

I think this is the best Ribisi performance of his career. I have loved Ribisi in everything I have ever seen him in, from supporting to lead character. But I have to confess that nothing in his career comes close to the energy he possesses as Seth Davis. I was impressed that he could be funny, sincere, sweet, desperate, angry and chill all at once, treating his transitions with genuine ease. Consider a scene where he is absurdly called on a day off by one of those petty Telemarketers, trying to sell him something. I love how he tells the Telemarketer exactly what he is doing wrong and gets him to pitch his idea again. It’s a great scene and I never knew Ribisi had so much command on screen. This portrayal was a diamond in the rough in an otherwise impressive filmography. It was lightning in the bottle for Ribisi and it is one of the many highlights of the movie.

“Boiler Room” is slick and thrilling, and I think you’ll like what you see.

The Essentials- "Planet of the Apes" (1968)

The Essentials- #63

Planet of the Apes

I am going to do something special and different over the next few “Essentials” columns. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” will hit theaters on July 11th, so that means we will get a look at it within the next few weeks. This week, I purchased “The Lego Movie” and while I was browsing movies at Wal-Mart, I saw something I felt I needed to have. It was the entire collection of old-school “Planet of the Apes” movies, all in one nice bundle. I ended up leaving Wal-Mart with both blu-ray packages in tow, and I could not wait to lay eyes on them. For the next five weeks, it is going to be a monkey party. I’ll be writing about the five “Planet of the Apes” movies I have, and I will definitely bear witness to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” as soon as I possibly can. The only thing you’ll have to excuse is that I won’t be revisiting Tim Burton’s 2001 remake, which I think I don’t need to disclaim why.

I have never seen all of the “Planet of the Apes” movies, that may shock a lot of you but it is true. I had vague memories of the first film, and I had never seen any of the films sequels. I know I am the movie-crazed guy, but even one man doesn’t see everything. I will be eager to jump into this adventure first-hand. I watched “Planet of the Apes” last night, and I watched most of “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” as well.
I think “Planet of the Apes” is a nice piece of science fiction. It was definitely daring for its time, and had an elegant storyline attached to it. What surprised me was that it wasn’t very action-packed. I saw Tim Burton’s film in theaters, as I did “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and both of those films are very action eccentric. I was surprised to see how little action is in “Planet of the Apes.” Most of the film is completely story-driven, telling a story about civilizations, revelations, fears, and even a tinge of romance. The film follows Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton), three astronauts flying on a high-speed voyage through out space. Due to time dilation, they haven’t aged much since leaving Earth in 1972, but when they crash-land on an unnamed planet, the year reads 3978.

A lot of the first half of the film is complete build-up. I have to say, I found that build-up to be quite effective. We know as much as the astronauts do about this strange planet, and we definitely get locked into the mystery with them. Especially for a planet with giant, falling rocks and strange scarecrows. After the astronauts decide to take a swim, baffled to find fresh water, their clothes are stolen. They follow the thieves and discover that they are primitive group of humans, who cannot speak any English. They can barley try to communicate with them before Taylor is captured by horse-riding, gun-shooting, humanoid apes. Taylor is taken to Ape City, the Mecca of this ape civilization. Two apes Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) and Galen (Wright King) believe that Taylor could lead to new revelations about humans in general. While nearly all the other apes in Apes City think he’s just another animal needed for slavery and entertainment.

I was absolutely captivated by everything pertaining to the apes. I liked how realistic the make-up is on the actors who played the apes. I loved that you could distinguish the difference between gorillas, monkeys and orangutans. I loved that, even in the lush scenery of the high definition, you could barely tell those were actors in make-up, they looked like real apes. I liked that that detail carried over into the other film, but we will talk more about that next week. I also liked how detailed and organized their civilization was. There was so much detail in every canvass of each scene and I soaked it all up gleefully.

I think the acting is strong across the board. I especially like the work done by Charlton Heston. I saw a lot of his lead films throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and I can certainly see how audiences were drawn to him. He had the talent and he had a strong sense of charisma and he carried that into “Planet of the Apes.” I loved the many transitions his character made and I loved his big moment at the end. I also have to give praise to Linda Harrison who played Nova. Nova was a human girl who got captured with Taylor and brought to Ape City with him. She never spoke English so she never has a single line in the whole movie. I was impressed how she was able to create a character just by using her eyes and body-language, it was outstanding work.

Now, I could not remember how I reacted to the big moment at the end of “Planet of the Apes” when I saw first saw it. I don’t think it hit me on the thematic level it did last night, simply because I was too young to get it. Now if you have seen these movies and if you have been paying attention to the prequel series currently, you know…the movie takes place on Earth the whole time. I found the handling of the ending in this movie to be deeply heartbreaking and quite eerie. I thought it was well-acted, well-staged and well-written. Even though I thought Heston’s lines were a little cheesy, he definitely gave the scene the payoff it needed to be effective.

That is one Ape movie down and four more to go, I hope you are excited as I am.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Cloverfield" (2008)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #62

Cloverfield

I apologize for skipping out on writing an “Overlooked Film of the Week” last week. I was a groomsman last weekend in a wedding for one of my best friends. It was a weekend that took up nearly all my free time, but I don’t regret anything about it. I loved being a part of my best friends special day, and it went off without a hitch. I tried to get as much writing as I could on Sunday, but that was tough after a near four-and-a-half hour drive home. I took at least two naps that Sunday and I wanted a lazy weekend this weekend, which is exactly what I got. Now I will write an “Overlooked Film of the Week” tonight and of course, I plan to catch up tomorrow. No harm, no foul.

Each movie has its fair share of detractors and supporters, and it seems that no matter how popular a movie is, there are people who will spew bile on it. It does not matter how great the rest of the world sees it, there will never be a piece of art that unites every single person in like harmony. Sometimes though, I am somewhat surprised by what vanishes under a rug and what doesn’t. I definitely thought “Cloverfield” in 2008 would become another big hit for Paramount. I figured we’d see at least two sequels to the film by now, and it seems that work on a sequel has halted, with no sign of restarting anytime soon. There is a forum I used to visit, and I remember people discussing the prospect of a sequel and some of the ideas people made up and bounced around seemed like interesting paths for a sequel, but we just never got one. I can say with a full heart that I enjoyed “Cloverfield.” I found it fun, confident, and action-packed. Honestly, what else could one ask for from a found-footage monster movie? Also, with the slick marketing game J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves played prior to release, it’s hard to see how people didn’t lose their minds for this film.

That is actually part of the reason why I find “Cloverfield” important. “Cloverfield” is almost single-handedly responsible for changing what could be done with the found footage device. There are some moments of tension in “Cloverfield” and some genuinely weird, creepy moments, I would categorize “Cloverfield” as a horror film. “Cloverfield” is a monster movie, through and through. It features everything we have come to love from the sub-genre, only it features a much different twist on the sub-genre. Honestly, I dug that twist a lot; we are living in the Digital Age, the Youtube Age. It seems that nearly everything we do is captured on a camera device for millions of masses to view. I certainly don’t believe in giant monsters, but if one were to start tarring up New York City, you can bet that someone would record it.

That is essentially the premise of “Cloverfield,” we begin the movie at a going-away party for Robert Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), who is going to work, in Japan. Robert’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas), plan to capture the whole party on tape and plan to record “confessionals” for Robert to see and remember once he has settled in Japan. Then, all Hell breaks loose as something emerges from the Atlantic Ocean and begins wreaking havoc on the city. There is one loose end Robert never tied up before getting ready to leave, and that is his ex-girlfriend-of-sorts Beth (Odette Annable), who is trapped somewhere in the city, and Robert feels inclined to venture through the danger to find her and bring her to some kind of safety.

It is this group of people we follow in this movie that will either make or break the movie for you. I have read countless film-lovers rail against the “annoying 20-somethings” who populate this movie. For me personally, I thought the humans worked in this movie. I think the acting is solid across the board, and the actors create humans that get stuck in something they can’t describe. I think Michael Stahl-David and Odette Annanble create two rich leads in this movie and I think I like Stahl-David because I found him to be easily relatable and his story with Annable felt real. They are romantically linked, but something happened that fractured that romance. Now that Robert wants to reconnect, it may be too late, and then they get caught in an extraordinary situation. It all felt very natural and it connects with me because I personally was in a situation similar to this one.

I also felt I could identify with Hudson (T.J. Miller) who is Robert’s best friend and blindly commits to helping him find Beth. Hudson in the early moments of the film is the one behind the camera, and there is a girl who is striking his attention. That girl is named Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and she is among the first people Hudson talks to for a confessional. When the monster begins attacking the city, it’s Hudson who feels the need to watch over Marlena and they also create a believable bond. I connected with Hudson quickly, due to the simple fact that I saw a lot of myself growing up in him. I remember when I first had crushes on girls and I remember the silly things I used to do and say to get them to notice me. These are things that when I reflect upon now, I am puzzled by my thoughts, wondering why I did those things in the first place. Out of the whole cast, it has been Miller and Caplan who grew the most famous and they do some of the film’s best acting.

Now let’s talk a little about Clovie, the nickname given to the monster that attacks the city. Clovie is unlike any monster we have ever seen in movies like this. He looks like a mixture between a dinosaur, a snake, and some kind of weird alien. His origin is for the most part kept a mystery, which I totally dug from the movie. I also liked how the miniature Clovies that fall off of Clovie’s body throughout the film are never explained, nor how they can force a human to explode once they have bitten one. I am sure we would have found out more about Clovie’s origin if we ever got a sequel, but maybe Paramount will make one in the future. For right now, I enjoyed the design of the creature and found him menacing for lots of the film.

I think the special effects are used flawlessly in “Cloverfield.” To this day, I am very much impressed by how director Matt Reeves made a digital monster and tricked the audience into making it look and feel real. I also have to give special mention to the score by Michael Giacchino, Giacchino composes a score that more that suits a monster movie. The song is intense, thrilling, and somewhat bizarre. It is a song that feels epic. Sometimes when I watch this film on DVD at home, I will let the credits play just to hear the score. The use of music is quite precise in this film and I loved it.

“Cloverfield” was a movie that has vanished without a trace it seems, but it is something worth checking out if you like this genre.

Scoot McNairy joins "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice"


"Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" keeps adding more actors and characters. Every single time I bring up a new character being added to the film's roster, I always jokingly say "they might as well call the movie 'Justice League' by now." I think its funny that DC is planning a Justice League film for the future when just about everybody on the team is being introduced in "Dawn of Justice." But, I am sure DC has a good plan on how to introduce everybody, so I am eagerly waiting to how it all plays out.

Scoot McNairy is the latest actor to sign onto the anticipated superhero showdown. Of course, we have absolutely no idea who he is playing. Which is sending the film community and speculators into overdrive. Some are saying he's Barry Allen/The Flash, others are saying he's playing Hal Jordan/ Green Lantern and others are throwing The Joker around again. The possibilities are endless though, he could not be playing any hero or villain, he could be right-hand to Lex Luthor or a Daily Planet employee or somebody tied to Gotham. We just don't know who he is and that is exciting.

No matter who McNairy is playing, his participation just made the film even more exciting. McNairy has been in a number of outstanding movies, and no matter how small or big his involvement has been, he's certainly made a mark. I've enjoyed him in "Argo," "12 Years A Slave," and "Monsters." Even though I was not the biggest admirer of "Non-Stop" or "Killing Them Softly" I did like McNairy in both films. I also love that McNairy appeared in "All Hail The King," the Marvel One-Shot that came out on the "Thor: The Dark World" blu-ray. The guy has done a lot great dramatic movies and he's certainly already dabbled in superhero franchises. I think McNairy is an exciting new talent and it'll definitely be cool to see who he ends up as.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pompeii Review

Pompeii Review

Paul W.S. Anderson should not be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson. The latter is an innovative mind who thrives on making great movies. Paul Thomas Anderson has made such hits as “There Will Be Blood,” “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love” “Boogie Nights” and most recently “The Master.” I am highly excited for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice,” which will be released sometime later this year. I am dragging my feet right now because I don’t want to discuss Paul W.S. Anderson, someone who should change their name completely because the very murmur of it has the power to send film fans into cardiac arrest. The only good thing I can say about Paul W.S. Anderson is that he is married to Milla Jovovich, other than that, everything he touches turns to crap. “Resident Evil,” “Alien vs. Predator,” “The Three Musketeers” I don’t know how he continually gets projects nor why anybody bothers to work with him.

Paul W.S. Anderson directed “Pompeii” which is a shameless rip-off and mesh between “Gladiator” and “Dante’s Peak.” It is a near frame-by-frame recapturing of “Gladiator” more than anything else. Except this gladiator story is soulless, boring and a complete wallow. One would think that sense the film is called “Pompeii” there would be a feasible emphasis on the volcano, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul W.S. Anderson really had an urge to make a shallow “Gladiator” rip-off, complete with his signature poor special effects.

Kit Harington plays The Celt, a slave within the Roman Empire who has been a gladiator for most of his life. His entire clan was ravaged by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), a powerful Roman who killed The Celt’s mother personally. Ripe with revenge, The Celt plans to fight his way to the top of slavery so that he can win his freedom and get back at Corvus. The situation gets more personal when The Celt lays eyes on Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of a rich Roman family (Jared Harris, Carrie Ann-Moss) who are trying to make a deal with Corvus, a deal which features Corvus marrying Cassia. So The Celt and Cassia fall in love (after not knowing each other for very long at all) and they try to run away with their forbidden love until a volcano erupts and kills them. The End.

I love Kit Harington on “Game of Thrones” and I am personally hoping Jon Snow makes on top in that show, but he is not given a single good scene or piece of dialogue all movie long. It also seems that Kiefer Sutherland is determined to play the most obnoxiously unbearable Roman in the history of celluloid. Seriously, I have never seen him so terrible before. Sutherland is an actor I greatly admire, but he wails his head, sprouting horrendous dialogue while running around the streets of doomed Pompeii, not exactly what I had in mind for Jack Bauer. I think Jared Harris and Carrie Ann-Moss do what they can, but they not given nearly enough screen time to really show their talent. Neither does Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays a rival gladiator who later befriends The Celt, much like Russell Crow and Djimon Hounsou in “Gladiator” except with a lot less grace and joy. Oh, and Emily Browning seems to only do one thing, open her eyes wide, that is all, end of character.

While this “Gladiator” knock-off is in hyper-drive, we only get small glimpses of the volcano at work. The entire point of the movie for this volcano to explode and it is treated like a complete afterthought. What was the point of making a movie about Pompeii in the first place? If the event is not front and center, why even include it at all. “Pompeii” suffers from the same problem that “Pearl Harbor” and “Titantic” did. It is a movie about a tragedy, but the tragedy gets shoehorned next to an intoxicating love story with uninteresting leads. I will never understand the point of making historical disaster movies in this format, and I’ll never understand how they sell.


You will learn more from a History documentary on this subject than will from this movie. So go ahead and skip it. 

FINAL GRADE: F

Almost Human Review

Almost Human Review

If you have been reading this blog long enough, you know how much I love horror. You also probably know how disenchanted I have been with the genre lately. Well, maybe disenchanted is not the right word. We have been graced with some effective horror films over the last few years if you go looking in the right direction. It just seems like it has been awhile since I have been scared out of my mind. I don’t mean to sound like a horror snob either; I don’t need every horror movie to force nightmares on me. Sometimes I just like tons of blood, tons of crazy killings and some beautiful women running scared. Sometimes I like thrilling, “holy shit!” moments over something that is going to traumatize me. It all depends on what mood I am in and what the film decides to deliver.

“Almost Human” is roaring homage to 1980’s slasher horror. When I call it a homage movie, I totally mean that in every sense of the word. As the opening credits roll, you will notice the font was the exact same font used in several John Carpenter movies of the era. The film is shot with a lush DI camera, giving the film an older look. Had I seen “Almost Human” without knowing any back-story about it, I would have thought it was made in the 1980’s due to the film’s groovy look. The film was made by first-timer Joe Bregos and even though the film was clearly made with a micro-budget, it is an effective, confident and rowdy horror film that will keep your eyes glued to the screen for the entirety of the film. Sometimes, there is nothing better than watching a first time film director throw down for the first time. I have no idea where Bregos’ career will go from here, but this truly a gracious start.

“Almost Human” features a very awesome pull as the film opens. We see Seth (Graham Skipper) driving a truck, trying to get to his friend Mark’s (Josh Ethier) house. Seth is frantic, he’s cursing the whole ride there, he is constantly looking over his shoulder. Whatever is going on with Seth, it is not good and it is apparently following him. Seth is freaking out the whole time once he arrives at Mark’s house. Seth was supposed to come to Mark’s house with a mutual friend named Rob, but according to Seth, Rob was taken by something in the sky. Mark is concerned, but he doesn’t fully believe that something beamed Rob into space. The ruckus of the two friends awakens Jen (Vanessa Leigh), Marks girlfriend. Suddenly, strange screeching noises come from outside the house, putting the trio into agonizing pain. All of a sudden, Mark walks outside, seemingly involuntarily. Then his body contorts while Seth and Vanessa are left screaming for him.

Two years pass, and Seth is still haunted by the events we just witnessed. Jen has moved on and found a fiancée. As Seth learns from news reports that lights are appearing in the night skies, he also begins to hear about a series of grisly murders. Meanwhile, two hunters come across a naked body, covered in strange goo, while they were scanning the woods.  The audience figures out that it is Mark, but Mark is clearly not himself. Seth and Jen begin to look deeper into the mystery of the murders, desperately trying to figure out if these stories are connected to what happened two years ago.

I think Graham Skipper is an almost perfect lead for a horror movie. He’s got the most perfect big eyes when something astounds or scares him, something makes the audience buy into the fear of what Seth is experiencing. He also comes off as frantic and crazy without overacting or over-simplifying anything. Skipper feels like human being the whole film and that makes it easier to identify with him. I think Josh Ethier is equally strong as Mark, and Ethier gets major kudos for not only starring in the film, but also editing and working on the sound design of the film. The sound effects are some of the most powerful devices in the whole film and Ethier uses them wisely.

I think Vanessa Leigh does excellent work as Jen, and liked that even though she is the “damsel in distress” type character, she is still a strong and independent character in the film. I also liked how daring Leigh was willing to be in the film. Leigh is involved in the film’s biggest “what the fuck?” moment, a scene that occurs near the end of the film. It is a scene you’ll discuss with your friends for weeks on end and had the film been a major theatrical release, it would have been the scene of the summer. You’ll know it when you see it, and I give Leigh major credit for not shying away from it. Highly exploitative material and strange material can turn many actresses off from a script and I like that Leigh was willing to do everything Bregos asked her to do. Each actor is catering to certain homage beats the entire film and they do well with them.

How clear the tribute to other films in “Almost Human” is also part of the problem. When I was doing some reading on the film before I watched it, Bregos mentioned in interviews that “Almost Human” was a mix between “Fire in the Sky” and “The Terminator” and that is an almost perfect way to describe the film. While mixing those two movies seems cool, it is also slightly uncreative. That is an idea I have noticed from many modern filmmakers these days. The audience can tell which directors are channeling which older films and that gets kind of distracting. I would much rather see a director take his influences and inspirations and make something unique and original out of them, instead of merely referencing those influences and inspirations.

No matter what, “Almost Human” is a great throw-back to 1980’s horror, and I think horror fans will enjoy the authentic feel of the movie. It is also a powerful statement from a first-time director. The cast is solid across the board, and there is plenty of blood and guts to make slasher fans happy.

FINAL GRADE: B- 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Who Played It Best? Perseus

Who Played It Best? Perseus
"Who Played It Best?" will be a weekly poll on my blog. Each Wednesday, I will collect a group of actors known for playing the same character in the movies. You will have the entire week to vote for who you felt played the character the best. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

You will have to excuse the photo above, but that was the best picture I could find that featured both actors together in one spot.

I don't know how many of you know this, but "Clash of the Titans" in 2010 was a remake of a film made in 1981. The story of "Clash of the Titans" tells the story of Perseus, a great hero in Greek mythology. In a nutshell, Perseus must save the world from the Kraken, who was unleashed by the Gods because of their anger towards the humans. This puts Perseus on an epic journey which brings him up against monsters, giant scorpions, and Medusa, a beast that has the power to turn people into stone when she gazes on them. Medusa in particular has a special artifact that will help Perseus defeat the Kraken. In 1981, "Clash of the Titans" was one of the best movies to feature clay animation. It may seem silly by today's standards, but what the late Harry Harryhausen, who was the master of that type of animation. What Harryhausen created in 1981 may have been models and clay, but he made it effective, he made it detailed and he made it worth the watch. (The effects work of Medusa is actually quite scary for clay animation.) The 2010 update put Sam Worthington in the title role of Perseus. Instead of clay animation and models, the update featured the top line of special effects. The two films could not be more different from each other, but one thing both films had in common was that Perseus was its hero. So I am wondering if Harry Hamlin (who played Perseus in 1981) or Sam Worthington is best Perseus.

My Two Cents
I want to make it clear that I liked both versions of Perseus, the problems I had with the remake mainly lie in the script and direction rather the performance of Worthington. I will admit that the 2010 remake was still very early in Worthington's career, and most of his early career was sluggish in my opinion and he was still finding his footing as an actor at this point. Sure, he may have had a monster hit with "Avatar" in 2009, but that still doesn't make up for the hard start for this promising actor. For that reason, I believe Hamlin really captured the essence of the character. Hamlin embraced the heroism, the stoic presence of the character. Hamlin nailed the romantic part of the character, and he definitely nailed the art of being a badass. Perseus was so many things in the 1981 version, and I think Hamlin captured all of those emotions well. Worthington's Perseus was just a man on a revenge mission, not too much work there if you ask me. But that is just my personal opinion.


"Clash of the Titans" 1981 trailer


"Clash of the Titans" 2010 trailer

Which version of the character do you prefer? Let me know by next Wednesday. You can start voting today. You can email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or just simply leave a name in my comments section below.

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? ALBUS DUMBLEDORE
Last week, two wizards had a great duel to decide who played Albus Dumbledore the best from the Harry Potter series. I was blown away to learn that we nearly had our very first tie. This is how close the vote came down (plus, some people voted it being a tie as well.) Alas, a winner was crowned, by only a mere handful of votes. That winner is...

Michael Gambon

GET YOUR VOTES IN FOR PERSEUS BY NEXT WEDNESDAY!

RIP Eli Wallach

RIP Eli Wallach

Eli Wallach was a legend.

Typing that almost seems redundant, it almost seems like I cannot type enough words to make that statement clear. Eli Wallach's had a career that seemed to span lifetimes. He had a filmography that listed more than 45 different roles in the movies. Wallach was a guy who if you saw him in his young prime, you may not have recognized him when you saw him in the sequel to "Wall Street" that came out in 2010. That's how far his time in the movies goes. That is how long the story of Eli Wallach lasts. 

Wallach worked with Audrey Hepburn in "How To Steal A Million," he worked with Clint Eastwood in "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," and he worked with Al Pacino in "The Godfather Part III." He appeared in things as funny as "Nuts" in 1987 and he appeared in things as scary as "The Sentinel." I will not pretend like I have seen all of Wallach's films, because I have not. I have not even began to scratch the surface of this great man's career. That may make writing a reflection of this man a little tough, but I will do my very best. If I tried to write about everything I have seen with him, and what it all meant to me, it would take all night and probably most of the day.

My favorite films featuring Eli Wallach were "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." Westerns were essential to my movie-watching diet growing up and so I saw quite a few of them. In those movies, Wallach created great range within just two movies. He was zany and even heroic between the two films and he could not have brought life to two more different characters. I also quite liked him in "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps." I thought "Lord Jim" was pretty cool and "Keeping The Faith" was pretty funny. There are several movies in that line-up that are completely different from each other. It just goes to show how good he was.

Eli Wallach will be missed, and now I plan to catch up with everything he has been in.









President Snow has a message for you...

Well I was wondering when The Hunger Games movies were going to use viral marketing. I feel like this franchise was almost tailor made for it.

A video was released this morning involving President Snow (Donald Sutherland) addressing the nation of Panem. If you notice, you'll see Peeta Mallark standing next to him. Which makes sense if you've seen all the movies and/or read the books. Its an interesting video, and now I am excited for the one-two punch that will be Mockingjay.

Mockingjay is the final book in the trilogy of Hunger Games books, and the adaptation will be two movies long. The first film is set to be released on November 24th. I am looking forward to it.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Second "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" trailer

So I still have mixed feelings about the upcoming "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "reboot. The new trailer which was released recently has not changed that fact. We got a better glimpse of the turtles in action and the methods of the villains, but there is still some stuff in it that sets me on the fence. I don't know what to make of the humorous sides of the turtles. I understand that aspect has always been apart of the characters, but I can't tell if it will be too much. I also can't tell if some of it will be too much in the realm of Bay (as in Michael Bay). Sometimes that guy's humor is awfully off-putting, no matter what the target audience is supposed to be.

I also don't know what to think of the updated version of Shredder, I think William Fichtner is incredible, but I still don't know if he is right for Shredder. As with every movie, I want this one to shine. We shall see come August. What are your thoughts of the new trailer?


Harrison Ford sidelined for Star Wars VII?


The production on “Star Wars: Episode VII” is well underway, and some shooting has been done already. The studio has finally landed a script they really like and they have begun shooting. There are a lot of veteran actors from this saga showing up in this seventh entry in the series. One of those veterans happens to be Harrison Ford, and he is reprising his role as Han Solo. Ford maybe 72 years old, but he has proved that he can still kick butt and take names. So it saddens me to learn that Ford has broken his leg on the set of Episode VII

It is disheartening to write that Harrison Ford has been injured on the set of Episode VII, apparently very close to the Millennium Falcon. Ford is a tough guy and I wish him a speedy recovery, but this will affect production on the sequel. An emergency meeting was called once it was learned that Ford injury could take him as long as six months to heal. They will be able to shoot all of the material which does not involve Han Solo, but from what I have learned Han Solo is the main character in the upcoming movie, his participation is vital. If shooting is pushed back as far as six months, it will be hard to keep up with the Christmas 2015 release date Disney has been holding so dear to its heart.

If the movie does get delayed, it is not the end of the world. If Episode VII did get delayed to say, 2016…would that really be a terrible thing? Would Disney push their entire Star Wars schedule back? I don’t see the reasoning behind that. Would it be so terrible to see two Star Wars movies in one year? It looks like both Marvel and DC are both really pushing their world-building universes, and that usually means several films a year. Star Wars could do that for just one year and nothing would be made of it. No matter what, I hope Ford has a speedy recovery and that this doesn’t hurt production too much.

SOURCE:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Non-Stop Review

Non-Stop Review

Before we begin, let me just say that I like Liam Neeson a lot. He’s got true charisma, a commanding presence and he can act tough without coming off ridiculous. I think he’s perfect action hero, and Hollywood obviously figured that out a little late in his career. Despite my feelings about Mr. Neeson and how awesome I find him, I’ll never understand why he repetitively keeps signing on to star in films where his “Taken” persona is planted into a ridiculous situation. I have loved the action genre all my life, and I know it is supposed to be harmless and fun, but simply remaking the same movie and having one actor play the same character gets exhausting after awhile.

That idea is actually too bad, because “Non-Stop” actually features a fairly unique idea for a plot. Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a United States Air Marshall who is mysteriously contacted by a stranger onboard a plane to London. The stranger instructs Marks to transfer $150 million to an off-shore account and if Marks doesn’t meet the demands, a person onboard the plane will be murdered every twenty minutes. That is actually a great idea for a thriller and a cool idea for an action movie. I will say that as a thriller, “Non-Stop” works for the most part. I love that the entire movie takes place on one set, and that for nearly all the running time, it never switches scenes. Had “Non-Stop” been less of an action movie, and featured a stronger, more mature script, I probably would have ended up loving it. Sadly, the old action movie clichés come fast and furious in this movie. Right down to a scene involving the bad guys finally revealing themselves, then proceed to go into monologue mode as they talk away their entire plot and the reasoning behind it. At that point, I almost wanted to roll my eyes and turn it off, but I had to finish what I started, no matter how much lunacy it featured.

 I think Liam Neeson does exactly what he was instructed to do in the film. I also think that he tries extra hard to make us care about the film and its plot. For the most part he succeeds, but we have to remember that this is a persona he’s recycled for the last five or so years, and nothing he did in this movie was surprising. I also think Julianne Moore, who shows up as a passenger on the flight, does what she can for the movie. I think she is the real actor who was able to give this film a pulse. I found her character motivating and I wanted to learn more about her backstory, which she sells to a tee. I could not help but feel disheartened that “Non-Stop” had a cast that included Cory Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o, Scoot McNairy, and Nate Parker, yet fails to use them in any sort of intelligent or creative way. Did you like Miss Nyong’o in “12 Years A Slave?” Yeah, I sure did too. So I was quite disappointed when all she happens to be is an extra with several scenes. What a waste.

The biggest problem I had with the film comes from the text within the script itself. Remember above when I was discussing the bad guys revealing themselves, as well as their motivation for such an act? Well, their whole plot is so closely tied to 9/11 that I found the inclusion of that incident in the story to be dumbfounding and disrespectful. I don’t mind movies about 9/11 and I don’t mind when artists express their feelings about what happened that day. I also don’t mind movies about conspiracy theories revolving that event, because those ideas would certainly make for interesting movies. But the way “Non-Stop” tries to shoe-in 9/11 anxieties felt very disgraceful. If you still harbor sadness from that day, I’d strongly suggest that you skip it. I also have to point out that there was a particular stereotype thrown into the film that offended me greatly. It isn’t used a whole lot in the film, but they point it out once or twice. But the point is that it is there and it rubbed me wrong. In my life, I have met many people who believe that every, single soul who is born in the Middle East is automatically a bad guy because of their birthplace and skin color. That is obviously foolish and bigoted. It’s movies like “Non-Stop” that sadly keeps those people talking. Is this going to be a normal idea in action movies now? Are we always going to throw in Arab actors into action films and political thrillers just so we can point at them and say they are the potential film villain? Are Arab actors going to be the center of a particular stereotype just like African Americans were in movies from the 1920’s until arguably the 1960’s? If that is the case, then I truly feel sorry for Hollywood.

The other big problem with “Non-Stop” is that I was able to predict the outcome before the movie really got going and that is never a good sign. Maybe that has to do with me and how many movies I watch, but if you ask me, I had the bad guys pinned down from the very beginning. It doesn’t help that the film follows the same guidelines as all thrillers these days. It is too bad, because “Non-Stop” could have been very unique and it could have been excellent. Sadly it is a film that wastes its talent, follows the simple clichés and features more preposterous action than I would care to discuss. It also happens to misuse the reflection of an event that some people may still be affected by and it is subtle about its border line racism. “Non-Stop” is a movie that takes itself too seriously and sucks all of the fun out its premise. What a shame.

FINAL GRADE: D

Ben Affleck gets solo Batman film?


It has been known for awhile now that Ben Affleck is Batman in several of the DC Comics movie universe that Warner Brothers is making. No matter if the schedule which was released last week is correct or not, you can be sure that Affleck will be Batman in both “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League.” When it was announced that Affleck would play the character, the world suddenly went mad. People get so touchy with these big, iconic characters. They have very specific thoughts about who should play these characters onscreen and who should not. When those expectations are not met, they let out the fury of a thousand suns. I myself am even guilty of that sort of thinking. When thinking about the possibilities for the next Batman, Ben Affleck did not even come to mind. When he was finally cast, I was shocked, a bit puzzled, then curiosity slowly set in. What did Zak Snyder see in Affleck that seemingly nobody else in the world did? We shall find out in 2016.

Now it should be known that Ben Affleck might be getting his solo film sometime in 2019. As of right now, the working title for the movie is “The Batman.” That is about all we know about it. We have no idea about story or plot. We have no idea who will be directing or writing or producing. Heck, this all could be misinformation and there may not be an Affleck Batman movie. This is just a faint whisper right now. If they do go ahead and make this movie, I find it intriguing that we will see Batman in at least two films prior to his own solo film. I kind of like establishing him somewhat in the world of this universe for setting him loose in Gotham city. It also makes the casting of Affleck that much more interesting.

If I was working at Warner Brothers right now, and I was in charge of a Batman movie, here is what I would do. Not only would I have Ben Affleck play the high-profile character, but I’d have him sit in the director’s chair too. One of the things I like about the Marvel films right now is the way they hire different directors for different movies within their universe and I think Warner Brothers could definitely benefit from that as well, Zak Snyder won’t have the energy to direct everything, and I would not expect him to. Affleck has proven he is an undisputable artist behind the camera, and that he is more than comfortable to direct himself. If we have him playing the character, why not direct the movie as well? Once I had Affleck locked in for director and star, I would hire Paul Dini, a veteran Batman writer who wrote the scripts for the first two video games in the “Batman: Arkham” series, and Bruce Timm, who is responsible for polishing the DC animated universe. Both Dini and Timm have a solid grip on the knowledge and understanding of these DC characters, specifically Batman (an even much better understanding that even Christopher Nolan had.). I especially like how they blend the grittiness of Batman’s world with a bit of reality and a hint of mysticism. As much as I liked Christopher Nolan’s take on the character, and as much as I disliked “Iron Man 3,” I am kind of over the “superheroes grounded in reality” business and “Man of Steel” proved that it isn’t fully playing by those rules. Most of all, I hope Warner Brothers just let’s its imagination run wild with the possibilities it has now.

But those are just my thoughts. I hope Warner Brothers has something much cooler in mind. I am hopeful more than ever for a new Batman movie, and if “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” happens to rock my socks, that hope will skyrocket even more. Like always, I want all of these movies to succeed, and that is what I hope happens.

SOURCE:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Final "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" trailer

FINAL "DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES" TRAILER



Out of all the movies coming this summer, I think I am the most excited for this one.

If you told me back at the start of the year 2011, that one of the films I'd take away as memorable was a freaking prequel to "Planet of the Apes," I would have laughed in your face. Its not often I eat my own words, but I sure did that summer. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" made me a true believer and it proves that as much we prejudge films, sometimes we are wrong. That has always been one of the finest glories of the world of movies.

I was instantly excited by the prospect of a sequel, and based on everything I have seen thus far, I think we are in for another fun ride. It seems there is so much passion and concentration spinning around this film. I think 20th Century Fox is working overtime to make something truly special. That seems truly plastered in every frame of this final trailer. Just like with the first film, I think this film is going to have lots of big action, but its going have its heart and soul intact. That is truly great in this day in age. I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait.


The Essentials- "Blazing Saddles" (1974)

The Essentials- #62

Blazing Saddles

I have had a Western kick as of late. A few weeks ago, I took a peek at “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” and I liked some of it, but I wish it had been better. Tonight, I am watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” I love how the two films are oddly connected to each other. I love the world Tarantino creates on the screen, and like all of his films, he wrote incredible language in the film. I bring up both films because they have been compared to Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” and I am not sure I agree with that. I think all three films approach a Western comedy in equally unique ways, but other than that, the films can’t be compared to each other. Plus, I don’t think anything can compare to the genius Mel Brooks created with his film.

Much like Quentin Tarantino, it is quite clear when you sit down to watch “Blazing Saddles” that Brooks really absorbed the Western genre as he went through life. I am sure he watched everything with The Duke and everything with Franco Nero and everything with Clint Eastwood. The way he handles the movie and the way he chooses his jokes are astounding. Sure, he goes for the easy laugh every once in awhile, but if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be Mel Brooks. The easy slapstick stuff works just as well as the subtle, rich jokes. It also seems that Brooks had a really good understanding of the history and culture of the Old West, which made the film even funnier and better than it could have been.

But that only scratches the surface of what Mel Brooks accomplished with Mel Brooks. “Blazing Saddles” is a comedic Western, first and foremost. But it is also so much more than that. Brooks made an ode to the world of film with “Blazing Saddles.” I would even go as far to say that he parodies the world of film with this one movie. You see glimpses of that parody all throughout the film. But it really shows itself within the last ten minutes of the film. “Blazing Saddles” wild ending is so bananas that had the film been made today, I don’t think the ending would have kept. I am glad this film was made in the 1970’s, when directors of all genres were tearing down the industry and creating a whole new world of film, turning new possibilities into reality. I am equally glad that Brooks made this movie and made it as slick as he did here.

The film’s premise is quite silly, after a railroad route is destroyed by quicksand, it changes course and hopes to continue construction through a town called Rock Ridge. Rock Ridge is town where everybody’s last name is “Johnson” (giggle, giggle) and they are proud people who are wary of this new railroad. State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), wants the land in Rock Ridge and he sends a group of thugs to scare the people of Rock Ridge, prompting the townsfolk to ask Governor William J. Le Petomane (Mel Brooks) to appoint a new sheriff. Lamarr persuades the Governor to select Bart (Cleavon Little) as the new sheriff, Bart is an African-American railroad worker who is on his way to be lynched. Lamarr feels that the presence of an African-American sheriff will anger the town and created disarray which will give Lamarr the advantage to take over Rock Ridge. Bart enlists the help of the Waco Kid (the incredible Gene Wilder) to ease the tension of his presence, and together, they undo Lamarr’s plot.

I only know Cleavon Little from “Blazing Saddles.” I do not know him from anything else, and besides “Blazing Saddles” he seemed to have fallen off the Earth. I am sure that is not the case, but I think he made a big statement with his work in “Blazing Saddles.” I am amazed he did not become the next big thing in the 1970’s, because his work in this movie should have primed him for that.  He had a commanding presence in the film and he came off as if he was born to be a star. Which further saddens me that we barely saw him the rest of the decade. Gene Wilder does what he does best in this movie, and Wilder proves once again why he was one of the best comedic talents of his generation. Gene Wilder is another actor who is genuinely missed in the comedy world today, and his material with Mel Brooks is among his best. I also like the dim-witted work by Harvey Korman as Hedley Lamarr.

Then there is Madeline Kahn, who plays Lili von Shtupp aka “the Teutonic Titwillow.” She is a dancer at a nice bar who comes across Bart. Mel Brooks collaborated with Madeline Kahn on several occasions, and their work together was screen gold. Her musical numbers are absolutely hilarious and she displays great chemistry with Little. Between her work here and in “Young Frankenstein” …man, I can’t decide which performance I like better.

I think “Blazing Saddles” is uncanny and unique in a way that any other comedic Western has ever been. So far, within this budding genre, I find it still be the king. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Warning!

WARNING
This blog is going to be cold for a the next couple of days. I have a very important date to attend to and it will take my attention for the entirety of the holiday. It is nothing movie-related, so don't start any false rumors. But its something that is nonetheless important to me. I will see you when I get back


Shawn

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

I have been the biggest fan of Wes Anderson since high school when I laid eyes on “Bottle Rocket.” “Bottle Rocket” was a film that not only began the career of Wes Anderson as a director, but it gave birth to Luke and Owen Wilson (although Owen Wilson went by Owen C. Wilson in those days and the Luke and Owen’s older brother Andrew was in the film also.). I immediately tracked down “The Royal Tenenbaums” soon after then “Rushmore” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and anything else I could get my hands on. I plotted each new movie year so that I would not miss any new film by the blissful director. I have seen every single Wes Anderson film to date, and I have enjoyed everything he has touched thus far. Yes, his sense of humor is dry and not upbeat like many comedy fans look for. Yes, he over-uses themes, ideas, and even camera angles from film to film. But there is no doubt that he delights me every time I visit his films.

I think “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a huge stride forward in terms of Anderson’s career and filmography. Once again, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is an all-out Wes Anderson film and if you are not an established fan of his already, I’ll be curious to see how this works for you. I have already read a few reviews which stated that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won’t win over any new fans, but I am inclined to disagree. Like I said, this film is a cornerstone for Anderson. All of his strengths are on fine display here and heightened to a point that borders on the perfect. I could hardly find time for fault when I was having so much fun with character and story. Anderson wrote his strongest characters here, giving them delightful language to say this time around. He brought back many of the actors he has collaborated with in the past, but he gave his newcomers some big roles too, and that blend generated some career-high performances from its ensemble. I can’t imagine how “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won’t go down in cinematic history as one of Wes Anderson’s best films.

I want to spend countless hours describing the films plot in lucid detail, but I should not do that. I want everybody to play along with the game Anderson created this time out and I don’t want to spoil it too much. What I will say is that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a movie within a movie within a movie set in a fictional version of Europe. The film’s main story revolves around Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the devoted concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel during the late 1920’s. When the sudden death of his mistress Madame D. (played by Tilda Swinton in some of the most convincing old-person make-up ever seen.) arises, he goes to the reading of her will, where he meets the rest of rather disgusting family. When it is told that Madame D. has given Gustave one of the family’s most prized paintings, they won’t allow him to have it. This sets off a wild chain of events detailing the story of how Gustave comes back into contact with that prized painting. That is about as much as I want to say about the story, and I love how much Anderson gave himself to play with. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a heist movie, a romance movie, a zany comedy, a bloody mystery film and a full-blown farce and I love the way Anderson mashes all of those story threads together into something creative and coherent.

The imagination stains every single frame of this movie. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” features colorful and glanderous sets and costumes. Anderson’s usual camera angles and styles are on full display once again in this movie, but they are sharper than they ever have been. I think Anderson gets better and better in the director’s chair with every new film, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” certainly highlights that. Everything we as Anderson fans have come to love about his work is heightened to a point that is gleefully unbearable.

Have I mentioned Ralph Fiennes yet? Because if I haven’t, it is long overdue. The secret weapon of the film is the work by Ralph Fiennes. We all have known for a long time how talented Fiennes was as an actor. But for the first time in his career, he is able to show roughly hundreds of emotions at once. The way he transitions from emotion to emotion through the film is gracious in a way I have never seen from him before. There are moments that are heartfelt by Fiennes, moments of glory, moments of hilarity, moments of grandeur, moments of sorrow, moments of silliness, and moments of insanity. I was absolutely blown away by how natural Fiennes made everything feel. He seems energized by what Anderson made him do, energized by the script he had to memorize and energized by the character he got to play. We don’t see actor and character come together as perfectly as I witnessed tonight and Fiennes is reason alone to see the movie, well almost.

I have to mention Tony Revolori who plays Zero Mustafa (the young version of the character) a bell hop boy who looks up to Gustave as a mentor. Zero will go on the epic journey of the movie with Gustave and he is every big moment in the entire film. I was deeply amazed at how such a young actor could stand his ground with the A-star cast of the film and also relish every character beat he got to play with. I think Revolori is a real discovery in the film, and I hope he has a long career ahead of him.

Much like any other Anderson film, it’s hard to pinpoint who your favorite character is. From the creepy yet comic thugs played by Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody, to the tenderness of Saoirse Ronan, to the delightful charm of Edward Norton or the brief but gracious appearances by Bill Murray, Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, or Mathieu Amalric. Everybody is at the top of their game, no matter how big or small their screen presence may be. Anderson really got the most out of his actors, probably the most of any of his films to date. The result is an acting masterpiece.

So whether you’re a Wes Anderson film or not, you owe it to yourself to check out “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This is what it looks like when an artist has painted something gorgeous. This is what it looks like when actors find the right roles at the right time. This is storytelling of the purest order. This is a goofball thrill ride of massive proportions. I think it’s a truly special movie which might hit you in the heart if you let it.

FINAL GRADE: A+