Archive for the ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)’ Category

cover

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: Jun 17, 2014

Region: Region Free

Length: 1:39:54

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC, 23.976 fps)

Main Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD English Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 French DTS 5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Russian DTS 5.1 Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 Turkish Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian

Ratio: 1.37:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1

Bitrate: 32.97 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available for purchase in the DVD format. This Blu-ray comes with an UltraViolet copy.

ss10

“I have my own way of blocking things and framing things that’s built into me. I compare it to handwriting. I don’t fully understand it — why my handwriting is like this — but in a way there’s some sort of tonal thing with the kind of stories I do. They tend to have some fable element, and I think my visual predilections are somehow related to trying to make that tone and make my own writing work with performers.” -Wes Anderson

The name Wes Anderson conjures different reactions from different people. His films all contain a similar tone and a particular aesthetic that is unique to his vision. Some audiences adore him because of this vision, while others find it much too difficult to suspend their disbelief because of his unique approach. The Grand Budapest Hotel has been hailed by most critics as one of his better films.

Justin Chang wrote a rave review of the film in Variety.

“One of the more frequent accusations leveled at Wes Anderson — that he’s a filmmaker who favors style over substance — will ring even hollower than usual after The Grand Budapest Hotel, a captivating 1930s-set caper whose innumerable surface pleasures might just seduce you into overlooking its sly intelligence and depth of feeling…The result is no musty nostalgia trip but rather a vibrant and imaginative evocation of a bygone era, with a brilliant lead performance from Ralph Fiennes that lends Anderson’s latest exercise in artifice a genuine soul…

 …The director’s well-worn formal and tonal strategies — the exquisite visual ornamentation, the novelistic chapter headings, the pervasive sense of yearning for the past — have rarely felt as fittingly applied as they do here, bringing a lost, antiquated world to vivid cinematic life. And while Anderson’s script (based on a story conceived with Hugh Guinness) deploys an elaborate tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale framework, the playfully convoluted saga unfolds with remarkable lucidity…

 The Grand Budapest Hotel feels like nothing less than an act of cultural excavation, a proudly analog tribute to the joys of old movies, forgotten literature, vintage decor and outmoded technology.

That extends to d.p. Robert Yeoman’s lustrous 35mm lensing in three different aspect ratios, one for each of the story’s time frames. In a touch that will delight cinephiles in particular, the extended ’30s flashback was shot entirely in the almost-Academy 1.33:1 format, an era-appropriate decision that has a marvelously capacious effect on Anderson’s typically fussy compositions and camera moves. With their striking depth of focus and taller frame, the boxy images feel looser, less hermetic and more spontaneous than usual, which suits the narrative’s heightened level of incident…” -Justin Chang (Variety, February 6, 2014)

Peter Travers also wrote an similarly enthusiastic review in Rolling Stone.

“…The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Anderson film that opened to raves at the Berlin Film Festival, won’t silence his detractors. It’s a filigreed toy box of a movie, so delicious-looking you may want to lick the screen. It is also, in the Anderson manner, shot through with humor, heartbreak and a bruised romantic’s view of the past. It is also, not in the Anderson manner, a rollicking caper that mixes theft, murder, a prison break and pastry recipes into a rousing free-forall that speeds by like a dervish…

 …My advice is, don’t let academic analysis bury the pleasures of beholding Anderson in a wonderland of his own making. His abiding love for a vanished past, real and imagined is at the core of The Grand Budapest Hotel. The thrill comes in watching as this rare talent gives his movie wings.” –Peter Travers (Rolling Stone, March 6, 2014)

One begins to notice a pattern after reading a few of the positive reviews for the film. Reviewers never seem to fail to mention that Anderson’s cinematic style can render his films an artificiality that can be difficult for some audiences to handle. Reviewers that lavish praise upon the film tend to do so because this particular style is perhaps more appropriate for this particular narrative. Kenneth Turan’s review for the Los Angeles Times seems to hint at this.

“Wes Anderson sweats the details. All of them, all the time, to an extent that can be maddening. But not in The Grand Budapest Hotel, where the writer-director’s familiar style blends with a group of unexpected factors to create a magnificently cockeyed entertainment.

 With credits including Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited and the stop-motion animation Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson works so assiduously to create obsessively detailed on-screen worlds that the effect has sometimes been hermetic, even stifling. The Grand Budapest, however, is anything but…

 …It’s not that Anderson, working with his usual team, including cinematographer Robert Yeoman, production designer Adam Stockhausen and costume designer Milena Canonero, has let up on the specifics here. Quite the contrary…” –Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2014)

A.O. Scott opened his review in a manner that implies similar notions.

“…The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Anderson’s eighth feature, will delight his fans, but even those inclined to grumble that it’s just more of the same patented whimsy might want to look again. As a sometime grumbler and longtime fan, I found myself not only charmed and touched but also moved to a new level of respect…” –A.O. Scott (New York Times, March 6, 2014)

Bruce Ingram praised the film in the Chicago Sun-Times and alludes to Anderson’s idiosyncratic cinematic habits.

“Those who find the films of Wes Anderson off-puttingly mannered and artificial aren’t likely to be converted by The Grand Budapest Hotel, which plays out, even more than usual, in a peculiar world of its own.

 If you admire Anderson at his best, though (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom) there’s a good chance you’ll be delighted by this masterfully executed, highly stylized, occasionally perverse farce, which takes his own personal brand of artifice to inspired new heights…” -Bruce Ingram (Chicago Sun-Times, March 13, 2014)

Newsday’s Rafer Guzman fell in line with similar praise, and again does not fail to comment upon the quirky aesthetics.

“…Anderson may be over employing his stylistic quirks — rapid-fire dialogue, whip-pan reaction shots — but The Grand Budapest Hotel feels like one of his most definitive films. Of its many endearing figures, Gustave is surely closest to the director’s heart…” -Rafer Guzman (Newsday, March 13, 2014)

For Mick LaSalle, it is the film’s “sad undertone” that saves the film and levels the aesthetics to an even keel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the movie that Wes Anderson has been hinting at and promising for 15 years. It has wit and yet doesn’t short-circuit emotion, style that’s more than a gesture or attitude, and good scenes that don’t only stand alone but that build and become part of a substantial whole. It is every bit what people think of when they think of a Wes Anderson movie, only this time the gap between the talent and the achievement is gone…

 …The movie’s sad undertone saves The Grand Budapest Hotel from its own zaniness – or better yet, elevates the zaniness, making it feel like an assertion of some right to be silly, or some fundamental human expression.” -Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 2014)

Of course, a few critics failed to get past Anderson’s stylistic choices, and didn’t seem to care for the narrative (which is certainly convoluted). Stephanie Zacharek’s review for The Village Voice is one case in point.

“…Though I have tried many times over the years to like, or even just appreciate, Anderson’s films, with the exception of the work-of-genius Fantastic Mr. Fox, they elude me every time. The Grand Budapest Hotel strikes me as even less of a good thing, although, as its title suggests, it’s Anderson’s most elaborate, lavish-looking picture yet…

 …But why doesn’t any of this glittering incident seem to matter? It’s quite possible that fans of Anderson, the corduroy visionary, will love it. But The Grand Budapest Hotel brought out my inner Hunca Munca, of Two Bad Mice fame: This meticulously appointed dollhouse of a movie just went on and on, making me want to smash many miniature plates of plaster food in frustration. I would apologize afterward, of course, because I’m that kind of mouse. But not even the jaunty, percussive score by Alexandre Desplat left a mark: Too much of it sounds recycled from the truly great score Desplat wrote for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Once again, Anderson has left me unmoved…” -Stephanie Zacharek (Village Voice, February 5, 2014)

Of course, it is quite telling that she admits that she doesn’t care for any of Anderson’s films (with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is significantly an animated feature). It is possible that she falls into the category of individuals that are distracted by Anderson’s aesthetic choices.

While J.R. Jones certainly comments upon the Anderson style, his issue with the film seems to lie in an overall flatness of the characters, which he calls “cartoonish.”

“…With each new feature [Wes Anderson’s] eccentric visual style becomes more pronounced even as his characters seem flatter and more cartoonish. Anderson’s movies can be wonderfully funny and fun to look at, but they often give me the feeling that I’m watching a grown man play with dolls…

 …The sense of being in a dollhouse is complete, reinforced by Anderson’s boxy visual style. He’s always loved the comic-strip feel of proscenium framing, and like Stanley Kubrick he has a mania for symmetrical compositions. Often he gathers his characters together for posed shots in which they sit for the camera as if he were lining them up for play. Anderson is one of the few directors working today who can actually get laughs with a camera, and his signature move—a horizontal pan that suddenly reverses itself, as if one were doing a double take—is all over The Grand Budapest Hotel, along with vertical pans to the floors above and comic zooms that pull us through windows and into other rooms.

 No amount of visual invention can substitute for characters, though, and Anderson doesn’t so much write characters anymore as recruit a great cast and dress them up…” -J.R. Jones (Chicago Reader, February 13, 2014)

Kyle Smith expressed an over-all dislike of the film in his review for The New York Post.

“…The mise-en-scène, the frivolity and the froth aren’t just added attractions: They’re everything. If a character should be shot by a firing squad or strangled in a confessional, it’s all part of the mad whirl. The effect is droll at best, tedious at worst, which means that I have to consign “GBH” to the slappable corner of the Anderson oeuvre, together with The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited.

Movies like The Great Dictator and To Be or Not To Be lampooned Nazis with forceful satire. “GBH” is a featherweight screwball comedy that, trying mightily to be cosmopolitan, feels awfully provincial, desperately touristy: Europe is just this nutty place where a lot of crazy mixed-up stuff happened and look at this darling model ski lift! That’s Wes Anderson: He can’t see the forest for the twee.” –Kyle Smith (New York Post, March 4, 2014)

The most unusual negative review for the film was written by David Thomson for The New Republic. His hatred for the film seems to revolve around Wes Anderson’s crediting of Stefan Zweig as a source of inspiration (though he does criticize the aesthetics and the flat characters as well).

“Not the least distressing thing about Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is its end title claiming to be inspired by the life and work of Stefan Zweig. Some nerve, some failure to read… In terms of movie history, he wrote the novella that led to Max Ophuls’ Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). See that film after visiting The Grand Budapest. You won’t go back…

 …So why is the name Zweig so startling at the end of The Grand Budapest Hotel? To put it simply, because this film is the work of a talented and vacant young director whose “brilliance” (I’m sure the word will be used) should not conceal his indifference to the depth of experience that preoccupied Zweig…

 …So the picture is a remorseless succession of pretty frames with frosted colors that might come from a Viennese patisserie. The vision is unique and inventive, but indigestible and likely to overwhelm some viewers. There is a production designer credited, Adam Stockhausen (he was on 12 Years a Slave, too, though you wouldn’t guess it). The esteemed Milena Canonero did the costumes. But I think Anderson is the visionary in charge. Still, to be a visionary does not eliminate the possibility of some attendant blindness.

 Under different direction, Gustave might have been a model figure of wayward decency in a world threatened by bullying orthodoxy and fascism. It is there in Fiennes’ tentative, anxious face, begging for a narrative line to grasp. Then the decor comes flooding in, like the blood from the elevators at the Overlook in Kubrick’s The Shining. But in that other hotel story the delight in art direction was at the service of the human story. In Grand Budapest Hotel, the decoration is a constant onslaught, and finally it amounts to another intimidation. (Anderson and his fans may be surprised by that observation, but immense style can become authoritarian.)

 Another version of this art direction is the treatment of everyone else in the film. Anderson has long had his family of actors, and here it is enlarged. So you should be ready to identify Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray—on and on it goes. These guests have a scene or two, quirky make-up and costume, and no connection with reality. Take Bill Murray. Here is a rare eccentric among American actors, someone not just ready for but reliant on unusual adventure in a project (Groundhog Day, Mad Dog and Glory, Lost in Translation). Yet he is not easy to cast in the regular scheme of American movie-making. A couple of years ago he had a lively chance, playing FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson. He was good in the part, and the film died like a bubble in the sun. So what can he try next? It turns out here as another hotel concierge; he is given a quick cartoon sketch, long enough for us to say, “Oh, look, it’s Bill Murray!” But there is nothing else, and nothing to justify his time or explore his talent. The result is close to a lot of Woody Allen’s work, with actors wheeled in and out as celebrities, not parts of an organic fiction.

 So Grand Budapest Hotel is dazzling, exhausting but bereft. It relates to the atmosphere and texture of Stefan Zweig like an achingly sweet pastry on a tin plate at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a rococo dead end, a ferment of decoration, unwitting complacency and ignorance…” -David Thomson (The New Republic, March 6, 2014)

Cinemaphiles will probably be able to guess whether or not they will find the film enjoyable based on the film’s marketing campaign, and their past experiences with Wes Anderson’s films. Those who have enjoyed Anderson’s films in the past should certainly find things to enjoy here. For those unfamiliar with Anderson’s work, one need only view the film’s trailer to get a sense of the film’s quirky tone.

ss3

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

20th Century Fox presents the disc in a standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork, and a slip sleeve with the same artwork protects the case. The image of the hotel is embossed on the slip sleeve, and this adds to the attractiveness of the packaging.

MENU 1

MENU 3

MENU 2

MENU 4

The static menu is attractive and complete with music from the film.

ss2

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The picture transfer is presented in its three original aspect ratios (1.37:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1). This makes for an extremely dynamic viewing experience. The image showcases perfect clarity, an impressive amount of detail, and represents the film as the filmmakers intended. Colors are accurate and the contrast is excellent. The disc is also free of any distracting digital anomalies. 20th Century Fox has done a superb job.

ss4

Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD English Master Audio represents the film perfectly. It has nice dynamic range, with the dialogue centered and well prioritized (for the most part). Music is full and has enough room to breath. Ambience and sound effects are subtly spread throughout space in an extremely effective manner. The entire experience is quite satisfying (and never distracting).

ss15

Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Bill Murray Tours the Town – (1080p) – (4:18) –

Bill Murray walks around the location and gives a commentary as the camera follows. This might have been interesting as part of a larger “making of” documentary, but it doesn’t give audiences a lot of information.

Vignettes – (1080p) – (9:00) –

It is difficult to know what to make of these “vignettes.” They do not add very much to one’s enjoyment of the feature, and certainly do not give audiences any information about the production. One is entitled, Kuntsmuseum Zebrowka Lecture and is really rather pointless. The Society of the Crossed Keys follows suit. The best (and final) “vignette” is Mendl’s Secret Recipe. This short piece offers audiences an actual pastry recipe.

The Making of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – (1080p) – (18:08) –

While it is nice to see the ‘behind the scenes’ footage included here, the information given by the actors and crew involved is simply typical EPK material. It doesn’t really offer any enlightening information about the creation of the film. However, this is probably the best supplement included on the disc.

Cast – (1080p) – (3:24) –

Participants briefly discuss the actors featured in the film. It is basic EPK footage.

Wes Anderson – (1080p) – (3:46) –

Participants briefly discuss what it is like to work with Wes Anderson. It is typical EPK footage.

Theatrical Trailer – (1080p) – (2:26) –

It is actually nice to see the Theatrical Trailer included here.

Stills Gallery – (1080p) –

This is a gallery of photos, props, documents, and other artifacts from the production of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

ss19

Final Words:

Don’t be afraid to purchase The Grand Budapest Hotel on Blu-ray. Lovers of quirky off-beat cinema will find a lot to love here. The picture and sound quality make this an easy recommendation.

Review By: Devon Powell