Archive for April, 2015

Trailer Thursday 4/30

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 30, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Concluding this month’s jazz related trailers is one of my all-time favorite jazz films (I may actually watch this again today), The Five Pennies

Check it out and tell me what you think

Advertisements

The Man with the Golden Arm

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) is released from prison with a set of drums and a new outlook on life, and returns to his run down neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. A heroin addict, Frankie became clean in prison. On the outside, he greets friends and acquaintances. Sparrow (Arnold Stang), who runs a con selling homeless dogs, clings to him like a young brother, but Schwiefka (Robert Strauss), whom Frankie used to deal for in his illegal card game, has more sinister reasons for welcoming him back, as does Louis (Darren McGavin), Machine’s former heroin dealer.

Frankie returns home to his wife Zosh (Eleanor Parker), who is supposedly wheelchair-bound (but secretly fully recovered) after a car crash some years earlier. Frankie comments on the whistle she wears around her neck, a device she used in Frankie’s absence to summon a neighbor, Vi (Doro Merande), when needed. With Frankie home, Zosh smothers her husband in their small tenement apartment and hinders his attempt to make something of himself. He thinks he has what it takes to play drums for a big band. While calling to make an appointment, he bumps into an old flame, Molly (Kim Novak) who works in a local strip joint as a hostess and lives in the apartment below Frankie’s.

Frankie soon gets himself a tryout and asks Sparrow to get him a new suit, but the suit is a stolen one and he ends up back in a cell at a local Chicago Police Precinct. Schwiefka offers to pay the bail. Frankie refuses, but soon changes his mind when the sight of a drug addict on the edge becomes too much for him. Now, to repay the debt, he must deal for Schwiefka again. Louis is trying to hook him on heroin again, and with no job and Zosh to please, pressure is building from all directions.

Soon Frankie succumbs and is back on drugs and dealing marathon, all-night, card games for Schwiefka. He gets a tryout as a drummer, but spends 24 hours straight dealing a poker game. Desperately needing a fix, Frankie follows Louis home, attacks him, ransacks his house, but can’t find his stash of heroin. At the audition, with withdrawal coming on, Frankie can’t keep the beat and ruins his chance of landing the drumming job. When Louis goes to see Zosh to try to find him, Louis discovers that Zosh has been faking her paralysis and can walk. Zosh, scared of being found out, pushes Louis over the railing of the stairwell to his death, but things backfire when Frankie is sought for murder.

Initially not realizing he is a suspect in Louie’s death, Frankie goes to Molly hoping to get money for a fix. After learning that Det. Bednar and the police are looking for him, Molly convinces Frankie that he must go cold turkey if he is to stand a chance with the police. Frankie agrees and is locked in Molly’s apartment where he goes through a grueling withdrawal to clear the drugs from his body. Finally clean again, he tells Zosh he is going to leave her, start anew and stand trial. In her desperation, Zosh once again gives herself away, standing up in front of Frankie and the police. She runs, but can get no farther than the outside balcony. Trapped, she blows the whistle and throws herself off the balcony to her death. A police ambulance then arrives to remove Zosh’s lifeless body and drives away, while Frankie watches in dismay. He then walks away with Molly.

REVIEW:

With National Jazz Appreciation Month drawing to a close, it was brought to my attention that I have yet to review a jazz film. If you search the archives of this blog, you will notice that I have gone through quite a few of those since the beginning, which makes it hard to find any that are left. I think I found one, though, in The Man with the Golden Arm. Yes, I know it sounds like it should the title of a James Bond film.

What is this about?

Frank Sinatra turns in an Oscar-nominated performance as Frankie Machine, a heroin addict and gifted card dealer trying to kick his drug habit so he can pursue his dream of becoming a professional jazz drummer. But a nagging wife, a high stakes poker game and a suspicious death conspire against Frankie’s desperate attempts to give up the needle once and for all.

What did I like?

Heroin. Today, it seems as if you can see drug addiction as easily as you can find a love story in film, but at the time this was released, that was not the case. As a matter of fact, when this was in the early stages of being adapted from the book, the heroin parts weren’t included because the MPAA would never let it fly. Thankfully, they came down from their high horse and let it slide, because Sinatra’s heroin addiction is such a powerful and poignant plot device.

Ol’ Blue Eyes. Speaking of Sinatra, I’ve seen him in a few films, all musicals, I believe. I’m well aware that along with that great voice, he could sing, but I didn’t know that the guy had some serious Academy Award Nominee acting chops! Holy Cow! This must have been the performance of his career because it was so moving, so powerful, so raw, and so emotional. A supposedly sober card dealer who falls back into heroin, loses everything, and fights to get it back. Sinatra nails every aspect of that description and then some.

Score. The opening scene of the film is pure big band bebop. The animation that goes along with it is hip with the style of the time (watch late 50s/early 60s Bugs Bunny/Coyote/Daffy/etc. cartoons and you’ll see what I’m referring to). Elmer Bernstein is a genius composer, but what is more impressive is that there really isn’t that much music. The opening theme is heard a few times and in the bar you can hear some jazz on the radio, but that’s it. Bernstein’s music makes an impression on the listener, still, even though it isn’t heard that much.

What didn’t I like?

Baroness. Does the name Eleanor Parker ring a bell? No? Well, surely you have seen her in a little film known as The Sound of Music where she plays the Baroness. Truthfully, I wasn’t a fan of her performance there and in this film I get the same feeling. I’m starting to wonder if I have some ill will towards this woman! Her character, who is Sinatra’s nagging wife confined to a wheelchair, is a contradiction. What I mean by that is we’ll see her in one scene and she’s very likable and sympathetic and in the next, she’s downright despicable! Pick a side, lady!

Jazz…or lack thereof. With that jazzy opening, and all Sinatra’s talk of joining a band, you’d think there’d have been some jazz in this flick. Well, we get one scene where Sinatra fails his audition, and that’s it. Being a jazz lover, I’m a bit biased when it comes to this, but to me this was just a cocktease. If you’re going to use jazz in your film, then either play it up in the soundtrack like The Incredibles or Catch Me If You Can (to a lesser extent), or leave it out altogether.

The play’s the thing. With the way this film is acted, I initially thought it was adapted from a play, rather than a novel. It is very stage-like. I was half expecting the lights to dim and to hear sets moving after every act. The stage aspect, could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. For me, I would have preferred a more cinematic experience, is all. Also, as I mentioned before, the lack of in-scene music added to the play mentality.

The Man with a Golden Arm really disappointed me. Not because it is a bad film, mind you, but because it wasn’t what it was advertised to be. I was expecting something more along the lines of A Man Called Adam. Instead, I get a non-gangster film-noire. At any rate, I can say that this wasn’t a total loss. There is a really good story here told by some fine actors. Do I recommend this film? Yes, I believe it would be worth your time to check it out at some point.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sabotage

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the leader of an elite team of DEA agents from the Special Ops Division, which includes James “Monster” Murray (Sam Worthington) and his wife Lizzy Murray (Mireille Enos), Joe “Grinder” Philips (Joe Manganiello), Julius “Sugar” Edmonds (Terrence Howard), Eddie “Neck” Jordan (Josh Holloway), Tom “Pyro” Roberts (Max Martini), Bryce “Tripod” McNeely (Kevin Vance), and “Smoke” Jennings (Mark Schlegel).

During a raid on a cartel warehouse, in which Smoke is killed, the team steals $10 million of the cartel’s money, hides it in the sewer pipes for future retrieval and distribution, and blows up the rest of the cartel’s cash to cover their tracks. However, the heist is discovered, the money disappears, and their superior Floyd Demel (Martin Donovan) suspends them while the DEA investigates the team for the theft. After several months without any confessions or evidence of their participation, the team is reinstated.

Breacher later finds out that Lizzy has become addicted to drugs and that her marriage to Monster is failing.

Pyro is killed after an unidentified stranger tows his trailer onto a railroad crossing and is rammed by a train while he’s unconscious. Atlanta Police homicide detective Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) and her partner Darius Jackson (Harold Perrineau) are assigned to the case and interrogate Pyro’s teammates.

Brentwood notes Neck is aggressively avoiding interrogation, and Breacher accompanies her to Neck’s house hopeful he will cooperate. When they arrive, they find him nailed to the ceiling and disemboweled. Brentwood recognizes the execution as the modus operandi of the cartels, leading Breacher to assume the cartel is hunting the team over the stolen money.

Breacher and Brentwood visit Tripod, who left the DEA after being suspended, and find him dead after a shootout in which he killed an assailant Breacher identified as a cartel enforcer. Monster later visits Brentwood, who is suspicious of Breacher, and tells her that Breacher’s family was kidnapped by the cartels, who videotaped their murders and later sent the tape to Breacher along with the severed body parts of his wife and son. Breacher spent months searching for his family’s killers before the team convinced him to move on. Brentwood apologizes to Breacher, and they wind up having sex.

Jackson traces the dead enforcer’s cellphone to a cartel safe-house, which is raided by Breacher and his team. However, the enforcers are not there. They are later found dead at the bottom of a river near Tripod’s house, and Brentwood realizes that they were killed before Pyro and Neck, meaning someone is framing the cartel for targeting the team.

Breacher reunites the team to tell them what happened, and Lizzy lashes out and reveals she’s been having an affair with Sugar. Grinder later confesses to Brentwood that they stole the money. Breacher and Brentwood meet with Grinder in a public setting to discuss what should happen next when Grinder is shot dead by Lizzy, who is behind the murders along with Sugar. Lizzy then meets with Monster to discuss her escape. Monster destroys her passport to prevent her escape, and Lizzy slashes him with a knife, killing him.

Breacher and Brentwood go to Lizzy’s house and find Monster’s body stuffed in a refrigerator. Lizzy calls Breacher, pretending to be alone, and arranges a meeting at a parking garage. Breacher goes there with Brentwood hidden, and they engage in a shootout with Lizzy and Sugar, who attempt to escape. Following a car chase through the Atlanta’s streets, Sugar & Lizzy’s truck ends up crashing into a tow truck, decapitating Sugar.

Breacher and Brentwood confront a dying Lizzy, who accuses the team of stealing the money behind their backs, motivating her to seek revenge. Brentwood is puzzled, assuming Lizzy had stolen the money. Breacher tells the dying Lizzy that he took the money. Lizzy tries to reach for her weapon and Breacher kills her. Breacher tells Brentwood to be “a good girl and walk away.” The local cops arrive and Breacher disappears.

Weeks later, Breacher is in Mexico, where he uses the stolen money to bribe a corrupt police official into helping him identify Brujo, the man who murdered his family. Breacher finds him in a Mexican bar and kills him and others loyal to him in a violent shootout, during which he is shot in the chest. Having avenged his family, a seriously-wounded Breacher sits at a table, takes a shot of whiskey, lights up one last cigar and smiles as he hears the approaching sirens.

REVIEW:

Since returning to acting, Schwarzenegger’s film choices have been…questionable. Some have been good, some just were there so he could spout a few of his catchphrases and others were just plain bad. Sabotage looks like it will fall in the good category, but we will have to see.

What is this about?

A crack team of DEA agents plots a daring heist, making off with $10 million in drug money. They soon find themselves targets of an unknown killer.

What did I like?

Mellow with age. Schwarzenegger and Stallone were huge, over-the-top action stars in the 80s. Fast forward 30 years and you will see they both have mellowed out. I do believe, though, that this is the first time I’ve actually seen Schwarzenegger act. Is he any good? Eh…that’s debatable, but he’s competent enough, I can say that. Fact is, the guy has realized times have changed and he’s gotten older, so bringing it back down a level or two is a good thing. Having said that, I think that if he hit the gym hard, he’s be back to his old shape in no time and then…YIKES!!!

Violence. Let’s see…cops with guns and the Mexican drug cartel. What should we expect at some point? That’s right! Lots of blood to be spilled and shots fired. My expectations were met and then some, especially in the last couple of acts, because this thing just gets crazy at that point. For me, violence, especially of this magnitude, should not just be crowbarred into a film, it has to fit the tone. In this case, it works and works very well, but in another film, perhaps not so much.

Is that a plot? Believe it or not, there is a plot about Schwarzenegger’s family being murdered, stolen money, what it’s for, and the mysterious circumstances under which members of this team are dying. A bit more serious and complex film that what you would expect from a bunch of muscled up guys with guns, but it does work better than it doesn’t. I was invested in the story, if for no other reason than to find out why these cops would risk their careers to steal $10,000, especially none of them seem like the rogue cop type.

What didn’t I like?

Once upon a time in Mexico. In this epilogue of a scene, Schwarzenegger goes to Mexico to handle some business. I wouldn’t have a problem with it, except that it feels like a different film. Before this happens, the plot with the money and the murder of his team is resolved, making this feel sort of tacked on. I feel that they could have merged the two together or just done a montage, rather than having an added 10-15 minutes of film that just didn’t seem connected.

Likable characters? Shouldn’t there have been at least one of these characters that we actually were able to relate to? Well, there wasn’t. The closest one was perhaps Schwarzenegger, but even he was very cold and distant, which was explained later in the film. I don’t know, I guess I just would have liked for there to have been one person that was an avatar for the audience, if you will, rather than just a bunch of assholes.

Comic relief. I am grateful for the moments of comic relief that are sprinkled in here and there. A flick like this needs to lighten up sometimes. Thing is, I don’t think they did enough of it. Seems to me that on this team, there should have been at least one guy that would be the jokester, I nominate Terrence Howard, but there wasn’t. They were all so serious, and I think that took me out of the film. Obviously, these guys love their job, but are we to believe that on a personal level they don’t joke around (other than giving each other penis tattoos on their back)?

Final verdict on Sabotage? It is somewhat decent, but I don’t believe that I loved it. Honestly, I’m not even sure if I liked it more than your average film. Nothing in the picture is going to stick with you and, I believe, if not for Schwarzenegger, this would probably have been a direct-to-DVD or Netflix release. Still, as always, I’m sure some viewers will fall in love with it and others will scorch the earth (or at least the message boards) with their hatred for this film. Do I recommend it? No, this is not a film that is worth going out of you way to see, but if you happen to catch clips of it somewhere, I can’t fault you for that.

3 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 4/23

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 23, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

We all know the Andrews Sisters’ mega-hit song, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, but how many of us know that it was actually first featured in a film? Even with all my jazz knowledge, I cannot say that I was aware of this, but here it is,  Buck Privates

Just a little extra tidbit of info, Abbott and Costello also featured a young Ella Fitzgerald and her song, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” in their film, Ride ‘Em Cowboy. It appears they liked to feature jazz stars in their films.

Bring It On

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Torrance Shipman anxiously dreams about her first day of senior year. Her boyfriend, Aaron has left for college, and her cheerleading squad, the Toros, is aiming for a sixth consecutive national title. Torrance is elected to replace the team captain, “Big Red,” who is graduating. Soon, however, Carver is injured and can no longer compete. Torrance replaces her with Missy Pantone, a gymnast who recently transferred to the school with her brother Cliff. Torrance and Cliff develop a flirtatious friendship. After watching the Toros practice, Missy realizes the squad has been copying routines from a rival team that her previous high school competed against. She drives Torrance to Los Angeles, where they watch the East Compton Clovers perform routines that are virtually identical to their own team’s. Isis, the Clovers’ team captain, angrily confronts the two. Torrance learns that “Big Red” regularly attended the Clovers’ practices to videotape and steal their routines.

Isis informs Torrance of her plans to defeat the Toros at the regional and national championships, which the team has never attended due to their economic hardship. When Torrance tells the Toros about the routines, the team still votes in favor of using the current routine to win; Torrance reluctantly agrees. At the Toros’ next home game, Isis and her teammates show up and perform the Toros’ routine in front of the whole school, humiliating them. The Toros realize that they have no choice but to learn a different routine. In desperation, they employ a professional choreographer named Sparky Polastri to provide one, as suggested by Aaron. But at the Regionals, the team scheduled immediately ahead of the Toros performs the exact routine they had been practicing. The Toros have no choice but to perform the very same routine. After the debacle that ensues, Torrance speaks to a competition official and is told Polastri provided the routine to several other teams in California. As the defending champions, the Toros are nevertheless granted their place in the Finals, but Torrance is warned that a new routine will be expected. Torrance, crushed by her failure to lead the team successfully, considers quitting.

Cliff encourages and supports her, intensifying their growing attraction. Aaron, however, suggests that she is not leadership material and recommends that she step down from her position. When Cliff sees Torrance and Aaron together, he angrily severs his friendship with Torrance, to her distress. But her confidence is renewed by Cliff’s encouragement and she convinces her unhappy team to create an innovative, new routine instead. She breaks up with Aaron, realizing his infidelity and his inability to be supportive, but Cliff still refuses to forgive her. Meanwhile, the Clovers are initially unable to compete at Nationals due to financial problems. This prompts Torrance to get her dad’s company to sponsor the Clovers, but Isis rejects the money and gets her team to Nationals by appealing to a talk show host who grew up in their area. In the finals, the Toros place second, while the Clovers win. However, at the end of the movie, Torrance and Isis find respect in each other, and Cliff and Torrance share a romantic kiss.

REVIEW:

Cheerleaders. The unattainable prize for non-jock adolescent boys. Well, I dated one when I was in high school and I was a band geek, so there is that. Bring It On is one of the films that shows cheering in a light other than just a bunch of cute girls who exist to shag the star football players. Does that mean this is a film you should keep away from?

What is this about?

Pressure mounts as cheerleading captain Torrance Shipman attempts to lead her crew to its sixth national title. She’s determined to let nothing — not family, schoolwork or an inner-city squad with a score to settle — get in the way of winning.

What did I like?

Cheer or die. One of the best things about this film is that it really shows how far these athletes go to compete for a championship. In one of the first scenes, a girl falls from the top of a the cheer pyramid, severely injures herself, and still wants to compete as soon as she’s able. That’s dedication!

He gets her? In typical high school society, cheerleaders tend to go for the jocks. At least that’s how it was at my high school. So, for this film to break that mold and have the head cheerleader pair up with a “nobody” really speaks to how society has changed. Now, I have to ask, since he’s with her, can I have his sister? HAHA!

Stereotypes need not apply. Looking for the typical stereotypical cheerleaders that bubbleheaded, vapid blondes? You might want to find another film, then. In this film, these girls have brains, attitude, and looks. The guys that are on the team…yes, there are guys on the team…are also highly trained athletes that I wager could just as easily have made the football team, but chose rather to cheer because apparently the team hasn’t won a game in quite some time.

What didn’t I like?

Cloverfield. Understanding that the Cloverfield squad is meant to be the anti-Rancho Carne, they just got on my nerves. The girls spoke in the “ghetto” speak, complete with hand movement that has always irked me. The style they had nearly made me want to turn the film off everytime they were on the screen. Had it not been for Gabrielle Union’s character showing class and decorum through those scenes, I doubt I would have made it through. Someone needed to tone down those girls because they were just shy of being hood rats!

Charity. So, there is this thing called pride that sometimes will not allow us to accept help, no matter the cost and/or reason. However, I have to question why Union’s character just tore up the check she received from Kristen Dunst’s character. Yes, they wanted to earn their own way, but the way this was presented made her just seem catty and vicious. In some ways, you could say racist, if you must play that card. For me, I would have liked for her to have taken the check and then Cloverfield wins with the money given to them by the father of Dunst’s character, but that might be a bit too much for this light hearted film.

Personality change. Eliza Dushku comes in as a hardcore rocker chick who only tries out for the team because they don’t have a gymnastics program. She is quite obviously not the cheering type. With that said, all it takes is a couple of scenes and she is all but immersed in cheering culture. Now, I would expect some transformation, but given the way they introduce her, it just seems as if there should have been more resistance and not this apparent brainwashing.

Bring It On did for cheerleading what a film like Drumline has done for marching band. Sure, neither one is anywhere close to showing what it is really like, but they portray their activity in a positive light. For that reason alone, this should be a must-see, but there is also the fact that this is not a bad film. It is quite enjoyable, especially for a teen comedy. I’m not a fan of cheering. As a matter of fact, I have been vocal about seeing it on ESPN (though it is more entertaining that poker, golf, and some of the other things they have on there), but this flick really kept my attention. Do I recommend it? Yes, very highly! Give it a shot and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 4/16

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 16, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

One of the giants of jazz, especially during WWII was Glenn Miller. An underrated biopic starring Jimmy Stewart was made at one time. Check out the trailer and see what you think of The Glenn Miller Story

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Prologue

In the present, a teenage girl approaches a monument to a writer in a cemetery. In her arms is a memoir penned by a character known only as “The Author”. She starts reading a chapter from the book. The Author begins narrating the tale from his desk in 1985 about a trip he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968.

Located in the Republic of Zubrowka, a fictional Central European state ravaged by war and poverty, the Young Author discovers that the remote mountainside hotel has fallen on hard times. Many of its lustrous facilities are now in a poor state of repair, and its guests are few. The Author encounters the hotel’s elderly owner, Zero Moustafa, one afternoon, and they agree to meet later that evening. Over dinner in the hotel’s enormous dining room, Mr. Moustafa tells him the tale of how he took ownership of the hotel and why he is unwilling to close it down.

Part 1 – M. Gustave

The story begins in 1932 during the hotel’s glory days when the young Zero was a lobby boy, freshly arrived in Zubrowka after his hometown was razed and his entire family executed. Zero acquires a girlfriend, Agatha, who is a professional pastry chef and proves very resourceful. Zubrowka is on the verge of war, but this is of little concern to Monsieur Gustave H., the Grand Budapest’s devoted concierge. The owner of the hotel is unknown and only relays important messages through the lawyer Deputy Kovacs. When he is not attending to the needs of the hotel’s wealthy clientele or managing its staff, Gustave courts a series of aging women who flock to the hotel to enjoy his “exceptional service”. One of the ladies is Madame Céline Villeneuve “Madame D” Desgoffe und Taxis, with whom Gustave spends the night prior to her departure.

Part 2 – Madame C.V.D.u.T.

One month later, Gustave is informed that Madame D has died under mysterious circumstances. Taking Zero along, he races to her wake and the reading of the will, where Kovacs, coincidentally the executor of the will, reveals that in her will she has bequeathed to Gustave a very valuable painting, Boy with Apple. This enrages her family, all of whom hoped to inherit it. Her son, Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis, lashes out at Gustave. With the help of Zero, Gustave steals the painting and returns to the Grand Budapest, securing the painting in the hotel’s safe. During the journey, Gustave makes a pact with Zero: in return for the latter’s help, he makes Zero his heir. Shortly thereafter, Gustave is arrested and imprisoned for the murder (by strychnine) of Madame D after forced testimony by Serge X, Madame D’s butler, about seeing Gustave in her house on a particular night. Gustave tells Zero he has an alibi for that night but could never cite his aristocratic lady bedfellow in court. Upon arriving in prison, Gustave finds himself stuck in a cell with hardened criminals, but earns their respect after he “beat the shit” out of one of them for “challenging [his] virility”.

Part 3 – Check-point 19 Criminal Internment Camp

Zero aids Gustave in escaping from Zubrowka’s prison by sending a series of stoneworking tools concealed inside cakes made by Zero’s fiancée Agatha. Along with a group of convicts including Ludwig, Gustave digs his way out of his cell with the help of the tools. The group narrowly escape capture after one of them sacrifices himself to kill a large posse of guards with his “throat-slitter” and Ludwig and his crew escape by car after wishing Gustave and Zero well. Gustave then teams up with Zero to prove his innocence.

Part 4 – The Society of the Crossed Keys

Gustave and Zero are pursued by J. G. Jopling, a cold-blooded assassin working for Dmitri, who chops off Kovacs’ fingers on his right hand and kills him when he refuses to work with Dmitri. Gustave calls upon Monsieur Ivan, a concierge and fellow member of the Society of the Crossed Keys, a fraternal order of concierges who attempt to assist other members. Through the help of Ivan, Gustave and Zero travel to a mountaintop monastery where they meet with Serge, the only person who can clear Gustave of the murder accusations, but Serge is strangled by a pursuing Jopling before he can reveal a piece of important information regarding a second will from Madame D. Zero and Gustave steal a sled and chase Jopling as he flees the monastery on skis. During a face-off at the edge of a cliff, Zero pushes the assassin to his death and rescues Gustave.

Part 5 – The Second Copy of the Second Will

Back at the Grand Budapest, the outbreak of war is imminent, and the military have commandeered the hotel and are in the process of converting it into a barracks. A heartbroken Gustave vows to never again pass the threshold. Agatha joins the two and agrees to find a way to go inside – by delivering pastries – and retrieve the painting. Unluckily Dmitri comes at the same moment and discovers her. A chase and a chaotic gunfight ensue before Zero and Agatha flee with the painting (which had been hidden, still wrapped up, in the hotel safe). Gustave’s innocence is finally proven by the discovery of the copy of Madame D’s second will, which was duplicated by Serge before it was destroyed, and which he subsequently hid in the back of the painting. This will was to take effect only if she was murdered. The identity of Madame D’s murderer and how Gustave is proved innocent are left ambiguous (though earlier in the film a suspicious bottle labeled “strychnine” can be seen on Jopling’s desk). The will also reveals that she was the owner of the Grand Budapest. She leaves much of her fortune, the hotel, and the painting to Gustave, making him wealthy in the process, and he becomes one of the hotel’s regular guests while appointing Zero as the new concierge. Zero and Agatha marry while Dimitri dissapears.

Epilogue

After the war, which it is implied Zubrowka lost, the country is annexed. During a train journey across the border, soldiers inspect Gustave’s and Zero’s papers. Zero describes Gustave being taken out and shot after defending Zero (whom the soldiers had attempted to arrest for his immigrant status), as he did on the initial train ride in the beginning of the movie. Agatha succumbs to “the Prussian Grippe” and dies two years later, as does her infant son. Zero inherits the fortune Gustave leaves behind and vows to continue his legacy at the Grand Budapest, but a subsequent Communist revolution in Zubrowka and the ravages of time slowly begin to take their toll on both the building and its owner as Zero is forced to “contribute” his entire inheritance to the government to keep the dying hotel in business. In a touch of irony, the painting Zero and Gustave fought so desperately to take now sits on a wall, forgotten and crooked.

Back in 1968, Mr. Moustafa confesses to the Author that the real reason that he cannot bring himself to close the hotel has nothing to do with his loyalty to Gustave, or as a connection to “his world,” but because it is his last remaining link to his beloved Agatha and the best years of his life. He theorizes that Gustave’s world was gone long before he was ever in it, but he maintained the illusion quite well. Before departing to his room, Mr. Moustafa gives the Author a key to the “M. Gustave Suite” and readjusts the crooked painting. The Young Author later departs for South America and never returns to the hotel.

In 1985, the Author completes his memoirs beside his grandson.

Back in the present, the girl continues reading in front of the statue of the Author, a sign that Zero and Gustave’s story and that of the hotel will live on.

REVIEW:

In all of the Oscar talk this season, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Granted, there is quite an array of really good films for the picking. So, the question is, why is this a contender at all, right?

What is this about?

Between the world wars, Gustave H, the concierge at a prestigious European hotel, takes a bellboy named Zero as a trusted protégé. Meanwhile, the upscale guests are involved in an art theft and a dispute over a vast family fortune.

What did I like?

Tone. Since this is one of the films that was up for many awards this season, I expected it to be another of those super serious, depressing dramas that tend to be the norm. Much to my surprise, this was very light-hearted and fun. The tone was something akin to Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, where there is an obvious “heavy” story, but it is told as something more of a farce, for lack of a more appropriate term. The light tone really appealed to me and kept my interest, as I’m sure it has others who need a break from all these dark pictures we have these days.

Dark lord has humor. Even before he became known as Voldemort, from the Harry Potter films, I don’t think anyone would have accused Ralph Fiennes of being a comedic actor. He just doesn’t have the look, but he is capable of pulling off some comedy. I always enjoy the shock of seeing someone not associated with a certain type of acting pull it off so well. Now, I’m not saying Fiennes needs to go star in an Adam Sandler/Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart type film, but he does have some comedic chops, and I just want to give him props for that.

Structure. I really was able to appreciate that this film was set up with chapters. Everything from the way F. Murray Abraham (isn’t this guy like 1,000 by now?) set up the story to the interesting ways in which the chapter titles were shown to the seamless transitions was masterfully done.

What didn’t I like?

Hotel. For a film that has the hotel name as the title, we sure see very little of it. Yes, there a quite a few scenes that take place in this majestic living space, but the “meat and potatoes” of the picture are set elsewhere. I don’t know, I guess I just would have preferred for everything to be more centralized, much like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which I initially thought this was a sequel to…HAHA!)

Nazi clones. It is obvious that this is a picture set during the war, so I have to wonder why not use actual Nazis? Is that product placement now? Or does this take place in some alternate universe where a group of people who are the same organization, just with a slightly different insignia, bring about war, death, and worse. There was something else I watched recently that did the same thing, so I really am curious if there was some odd edict from the motion picture association banning the use of Nazis.

Gustave’s end. I wasn’t satisfied with Gustave’s end. Well, I take that back. It was the face that we didn’t get to see it happen and it was just told, as if rushing through the final stanza. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way he meets his end seems like the stuff of legend, and a fitting end considering what he was doing and who he was doing it for. Why not show that? I just don’t understand!!!

Final thoughts on The Grand Budapest Motel? Two things. First, it is obvious this is one of the best films of the year. Great script, acting, cinematography…everything. However, in comparison to the other contenders is does come off as a weaker entry, an underdog, if you will. The cast is great, even with some big names playing such cameo-esque roles. Do I recommend this? Yes. Yes, I do!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars