I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, and not reviewed any movies for a few weeks (but have watched a couple – more on that below). Life gets in the way. Amongst other things, my focus has primarily been on my writing. Currently I have one novel published, Showdown In Los Angeles, and have been finalising the next three novels in the series, which I will publish over the next few months. My writing has been such a passion since I was young and I’ve written several stories, and these four I’m very proud of. I think they have good characters and some good situations, but the it the proof I’m sure for anyone interested will be in the reading. So by all means seek me out on Amazon, at the following link: Author https://www.amazon.com/stores/Craig-Micklewright/
As said I’ve also been watching a few movies. First off was Wes Anderson’s The French Despatch (Good+) that whilst visually as clever and as captivating as The Grand Budapest Hotel, with a similar structure, I didn’t feel the individual stories were as enjoyable or the characters as rich. However likes of Benicio Del Toro and Adrian Brody still proved enjoyable. Next up was Amsterdam (Good) an enjoyable crime farce starring Christian Bale and Margot Robbie, which was fun and had entertaining characters, but it’s story wasn’t very engaging. Still, not as awful as some critics may have you believe.
On the horizon, I am intending to catch up a few movies, and mainly intend to watch (and review) Park Chan-Wook’s latest Decision to Leave, which I recently purchased on Blu-ray. So hopefully look out for that. Until then I’m also contemplating a new writing project, see how that fairs.
I’d say I’m becoming a fan of director Wes Anderson. His movies are so much pleasure to simply ‘look at’ with his captivating and whimsical camera work, shot composition and a near-cartoonish approach to story telling. It’s a style that feels theatrical and obsessively planned out but retains a relaxed charm and personality that continues to draw me in.
This effort from 2012 follows the story of a young boy who runs away from a scout camp on a remote offshore island to embark on a back-to-nature adventure with the girl he loves. This causes the community including the girl’s parents Bill Murray & Francis McDormand as well as the local Police captain Bruce Willis to launch a search. This is a gentle, comical drama that has two strong turns from young actors Jated Gilman & Kara Hayward, perfectly supported by several recognisable faces including Edward Norton and Tilda Swindon. Although not the most compelling of plots, with a central love story that’s far from ‘deep’, Anderson’s direction is so charming that despite some slow moments I was still entertained.
It doesn’t have the infectious energy of say the more recent Grand Budapest Hotel, but with a fun setting and likeable performances this was another in the director’s back catalogue I’m very happy to have seen.
The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a pleasing image quality that is vibrant if a little soft probably due to the movie’s exaggerated sepia colour pallet. There’s also a perfectly acceptable 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that showcases the regular, off-kilter music cues and good use of surrounds and sub woofer (especially in the climactic rainstorm). However it’s in the extras this release excels, with a fun archive commentary from 2015 with the director along with select members of crew and cast. Add to this plenty of behind the scenes footage including a brief set tour with Bill Murray as well as footage filmed by Edward Norton. The movie is also presented in attractive packaging using the movie’s scout-camp imagery for a booklet, postcard and map of the island. It’s not in my opinion one of Wes Anderson’s best movies but perfectly fits in with a style that fans will be familiar with and is well worth a watch.
I made a promise to myself last year that I’d check out the other movies by director Wes Anderson. This followed my absolute love and admiration for his acclaimed Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved his visual style, his quirky, larger-than-life characters and well, just about everything that movie had to offer. So when I learnt that prestigious label ‘The Criterion Collection’ were releasing one of the director’s best known movies as part of their UK collection … I jumped at the chance.
This whimsical tale follows Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who wants to reconnect with his dysfunctional family on hearing the news that he is dying. His family however are made up of a group of former child geniuses, now washed up has-beens and a feisty ex-wife on the brink of excepting a marriage proposal. Time isn’t on Royal’s side. Immediately it’s clear this has that same beautiful visual style, albeit less fantastical of Grand Budapest, with Anderson’s clear love of wide angle lenses and vibrant colours. Each and every frame of this is eye-catching, even for a movie set in modern day Manhattan. It is a light hearted, gently paced snapshot of a family and their various personalities and eccentricities. We get Ben Stiller’s over-protective father to his two young sons, Gwyneth Paltrow’s moping loner, and Luke Wilson’s troubled former Tennis star. However it’s Hackman that stands out and for an actor I hadn’t seen much of in a long time, I loved every time this ‘his own worst enemy’ character was on screen, complete with his bizarre Indian man servant / accomplice. We also get appearances from Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the movie) and Bill Murray.
I’d have preferred this to have had more humour, as it’s an ensemble piece ripe with comic potential, but instead we mostly get fascinating but overly miserable characters all trying to get on with one another but clearly failing. It’s charming and very watchable … but not traditionally entertaining. Whilst never boring, it plays its cards leisurely and proves an easy-going experience that still managed to make this viewer smile.
The Blu-ray as expected from Criterion is exceptional. The image quality has a lovely warm sheen to it with colours that pop and plenty of detail. For a fairly gentle-paced drama this doesn’t wow the surrounds audio-wise but has crystal clear dialogue and the various music cues work a treat (Wes Anderson’s tastes being suitably quirky). Extras are plentiful with a very welcome commentary and a nice collection of behind the scenes featurettes. In addition we also get booklets comprising of exclusive artwork and an essay on the movie. Welcome treatment to a likeable but in my opinion, not exactly essential movie.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this. I had heard that director Wes Anderson had his own unique style, that it starred one of my favourite actors, Ralph Fiennes and had been widely acclaimed and nominated for several Oscars. So I thought … it has to be worth checking out.
Narrated by an ageing hotel owner recanting his exploits as a bell boy taken under the wing of a charismatic and respected concierge, Mr Gustave (Fiennes) who following a wealthy woman’s mysterious death, comes into possession of a priceless painting and the disdain of her greedy family, headed by a snarling Adrian Brody. So follows a very entertaining ‘caper’ comedy as we follow an unlikely duo through various adventures.
Wes Anderson has presented here a real spectacle of a movie… it’s shot with a style that echoes the avant-garde look of French cinema ala Jean-Pierre Jaunet (Amelie, Delicatessen) mixed with the flourishes of Baz Lurhman (Moulin Rouge) via the technical perfection of Stanley Kubrick to create one of the best looking movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also for the most part presented in old-school 4:3 ratio, like that Oscar magnet The Artist and it works very well indeed. There is more character and personality in any five minutes here than most movies have in their entire running time. Also we get a wealth of famous faces all doing their bit in small but enjoyable roles from Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Saoirse Ronan to Bill Murray. Add to this a great villainous turn by Willem Defoe … and this has it all. The story is fun and energetic and held together by a brilliant where-has-he-been Ralph Fiennes as the camp, poetic and lovable Mr Gustave – surely one of the most memorable characters in a while.
I had a great time with this, and it’s made me an instant fan of Wes Anderson – I love directors with such visionary appeal. Essential viewing.
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