"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
King of quirk Wes Anderson stays true to form, writing and directing a sweet little film about a majestic European hotel and its oddball concierge on the verge of World War II.
Ralph Fiennes stars as M. Gustave, the perfectionist concierge who takes his duties to the extreme, bedding octogenarian guests and delivering nightly sermons to the staff. When one of his paramours dies and bequests a valuable painting to him, the matriarch's family declares war on our likable hero at the same time the Nazis declare war on everyone else. Nonstop silliness, with only a few dashes of reality, ensues.
Tony Revolori co-stars as Gustave's protégé and almost steals the show with his charming, deadpan style. The only thing that stops him is Fiennes, who is fully brilliant as the manic hotelier and deserves an Oscar nomination.
The cast of clever actors is enormous, but Anderson manages to stop with the cameos just as it's about to become a distraction. Even the cheesy film school special effects -- including a ski gondola that looks like it was made from a shoe box -- come across as charming.
While this is decidedly a comedy, it's one of those indie comedies that don't have jokes per se but just lots of absurd scenes that will make you laugh, or at least smile profusely. Too saucy for kids, and younger teens are likely to miss the subtle humor that runs throughout. (R: Sexual themes, language and violence). 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 3 stars
Teens: 2 stars
Adults: 3 stars
Seniors: 3 stars
Should you watch it? Yes -- oddball comedy that will win you over.
"The Monuments Men"
This World War II film about American art professors joining an elite group of soldiers trying to halt the Nazis' plundering of great works of European art seemed too good to be true. Boasting an A-list cast to tell a little-known story of the war seemed like it was destined to be one of my favorite films of the year. It was not. It wasn't even my favorite film of the day.
George Clooney stars as the ringleader of refined men who builds a team that includes skilled actors such as Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Hugh Bonneville, among others. And that's one of the film's major problems: too many characters and storylines. The idea of the film is easy to get, but instead of focusing on a single trove of art that needs to be found and rescued, we're subjected to several plot threads that are hard to follow and uncompelling.
I gave up all hope during the embarrassing scene when Clooney presents his request to form the Monuments Men to a stilted FDR lookalike. The dialogue was so trite that only a script doctor could love it.
Acceptable for kids as young as 10 years old, but they won't like it. (PG-13: Violence and language). 1 hour and 58 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 1½ stars
Kids: ½ star
Teens: 1 star
Adults: 2 stars
Seniors: 2½ stars
Should you watch it? No -- all-star World War II film surrenders to mediocrity.
J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.