Thursday, March 27, 2014


Written & Directed by Wes Anderson

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. March 17, 2014  5:30 PM

"The Grand Budapest Hotel", the latest by writer/director Wes Anderson, is a rich and creamy confection filled with gorgeously detailed production design and charming offbeat film actors sprinkled throughout. And just like a sugary treat, while you may enjoy all of the brief, pleasurable sensations that "The Grand Budapest Hotel" may bring, it will still leave you hungry for a complete meal.

If you are at all familiar with the work of Mr. Anderson, then you'll know that there tends to be more of a stronger emphasis on whimsical style than substance. And that's perfectly fine as this gifted director knows exactly what he's doing. His fixated attention to the finest of details makes his films delightful little treasures. Now, if this were, say twenty minutes long, the film would be perfect but stretched out at closer to two hours, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" over stays it's welcome.

The film begins in the present day with the unnamed writer (played by Tom Wilkinson) of a book recalling his time spent at The Grand Budapest in the 1960's. We soon see the author as a younger man (Jude Law) as he meets Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the current owner of the faded hotel and tells him the fascinating tale of how he became the proprietor.

Our main story takes place in the 1930's right on the verge of an impending global war. At this time, Zero (now played by Tony Revolori) was an eager, new bus boy at the hotel. He's greeted at first with disdain from M. Gustave H (an excellent Ralph Fiennes), the haughty concierge of this grand palace in the heart of the fictional European city of Zubrowka. But soon Zero becomes the concierge's protege and confidant. Although sexually ambiguous, Gustave has made a habit of discretely seducing the elderly and quite wealthy female patrons who frequent the hotel. One of his long-time admirers is the eighty-four year old, Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton) and they spend a lovely, romantic time together during her stay.

A few days after she checks out, Madame D is found dead under suspicious circumstances. During the reading of the will, Gustave discovers he has inherited a valuable painting which outrages her son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody). With the help of Zero, Gustave sneaks the painting out and hides it at the hotel for safe keeping until the dust settles. However, Gustave is arrested and imprisoned for the murder of Madame D. The faithful Zero comes to the rescue as he delivers tiny cakes with tiny tools hidden inside to help the innocent Gustave and his new-found jailhouse buddies breakout of prison. Meanwhile, Dmitri sends his murderous henchman (Willem Dafoe) out to track down the painting.

Inspired by the writings of Austrian novelist, Stefan Zweig, Mr. Anderson has crafted a zany, romantic farce with narration that gives an impression, at times, of a twisted fairy tale. What truly helps keep the proceedings rolling merrily along is the fine cast of players which include Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan along with Mr. Anderson's regulars, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray (who has appeared in all of Anderson's films with the exception of his first) popping in for extended cameos. Because of his well-known work in intense dramas such as "Schindler's List", "The English Patient" and last year's "The Invisible Woman", Mr. Fiennes is not seen as much of a laugh riot but his marvelous work here should turn that idea on it's head. Wildly absurd yet highly charismatic, the actor is pure perfection as the bumbling concierge.

Regardless that this may not offer much more than scrumptious visual delights and the occasional comic zingers but due to Mr. Anderson's striking wit and sublime skills as a film maker, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a compelling film you should see.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Outfest Fusion is a three day film festival that focuses on the LGBT people of color. Beginning March 14th at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, the opening night film is the latest from Patrik-Ian Polk, "Blackbird". The film tells the story of a gay high school teen (newcomer, Julian Walker) trying to find his way in a small Southern town and deal with his deeply religious parents played by Isaiah Washington and Oscar winner, Mo'nique.

Comedian, Alec Mapa will not only receive the Outfest Fusion 2014 Achievement Award but his concert film, "Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy" will be the gala screening on March 15th.


The festival will also screen several programs that feature shorts from around the globe including the OutSet Shorts on March 16th which premieres the works of sixteen young film makers created to empower and educate. Plus, there will be plenty of swinging parties before and after the films.

For additional information and ticket purchases, please go to:


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

POMPEII (2014)

Written by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler & Michael Robert Johnson

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson

Where & When: MJR Cinemas, Westland, MI.  February 21, 2014  9:30PM

"Pompeii" takes the tale of the ancient Italian town leveled by a powerful volcano and wraps a wan and implausible love story around that city's final days. Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for the "Resident Evil" franchise, has crafted an overly familiar gladiator epic that offers absolutely nothing novel or inspired.

The film opens with the massacre of a tribe of Celtics with the lone survivor being a boy, Milo. Playing possum, the child witnesses his mother slaughtered by the malevolent General Corvus, played by a woefully miscast Kiefer Sutherland. Wandering aimlessly, Milo is captured and placed in to slavery.

Years later, the boy has grown in to a strapping young gladiator and in the fine ripped form of Kit Harrington from HBO's "Game of Thrones". I'm probably one of the few people that doesn't watch the popular program but the brooding, swarthy actor has encouraged me to take a peek at what I'm been missing. After a slave owner witnesses Milo effortlessly take down an opponent, he is whisked off to Pompeii to compete. While being transported in chains to the city, Milo captures the heart of Cassia (Emily Browning) while putting an injured horse out of it's misery. She just happens to be the daughter of Severus (Jared Harris), the emperor of Pompeii. He and his wife (Carrie-Anne Moss) are thrilled that their beautiful offspring has returned home after a year in Rome.

Milo doesn't say much, keeping to himself which riles the other slaves. Despite Milo's skills as a gladiator, the champion of the arena, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is far from impressed. With one last battle before winning his freedom, Atticus is confident of his victory. During a celebration to display the warriors for the next day's games, Milo crosses paths once again with Cassia causing sparks to fly hot and heavy. It is also here where Milo discovers that the murderous Corvus, now a Roman senator, is in Pompeii to negotiate with Severus to invest in the struggling city. Corvus is more than willing to help as long as he can have Cassia as his bride.

Once Mt. Vesuvius violently erupts, you would think people would be anxiously rushing to get out of town. They do, of course, however as burning rocks soar past, the air fills with thick clouds of ash and the earth crumbles beneath their feet, Milo and Corvus find time to have not one but two impassioned battles. As Pompeii falls around them, they engage in a ferocious, foolish clash for honor, revenge and the hand of the fair, Cassia.

The awe-inspiring visuals (in 3D, no less) are propelled front and center while the performances and plot are designated as necessary bother. Mr. Anderson is not going to let little things like history or logic stand in the way of a thrilling action flick. "Pompeii" has cribbed the now cliched moments from many of the the current sword-and-sandal films while attempting to add the sweeping tragic romance of "Titanic". But the outcome is far less meaningful, engaging or interesting than any of the movies that are being emulated. "Pompeii" offers a high-energy, action-packed distraction but not long after it's over, much like the now-lost city, the memory of it's existence will fade like a puff of smoke.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


All right, all right, all right.

Another evening of glitz and glamour has concluded as this year's Academy Awards were handed out to the selected few to take home the coveted prize. After the somewhat mean-spirited, frat-boy humor of the previous host, Seth MacFarlane, the charming Ellen DeGeneres delivered a warm, sweet-natured and hysterical monologue although her joke about Liza Minnelli looking like a man in a dress was about the only questionable moment in the show. Ellen kept everything light and helped make the Oscars never feel like it was over three hours long. The highlights included Pharrell Williams getting the whole audience on their feet during his fun performance of "Happy", the pizza gag and causing Twitter to crash with a star-filled selfie.

It was nice to see such a wide, diverse cast of presenters. From a salute to classic Hollywood with a frail but still quite regal Sidney Pointer and frozen beauty, Kim Novak to appearances from the more recent old guard such as Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Sally Field, Glenn Close and Harrison Ford to the current flock of young film stars, Michael B. Jordan, Emma Watson, Zac Efron, and Kerry Washington.

As far as the awards themselves, there were no real surprises as all of the winners followed the predictable pattern set by most of the other recent award recognition. "Gravity" received the most wins with seven statues but "12 years A Slave" went on to capture the top prize of "Best Picture" along with the screenplay and the lady of the moment, Lupita Nyong'o winning Best Supporting Actress. I was very pleased that the wonderful "20 Feet From Stardom" won for Best Documentary (with one of the subjects, Darlene Love bringing down the house as she broke out with an impromptu song) and less thrilled about the overrated "The Great Beauty" taking the Best Foreign Language prize. Overall, it was a really entertaining pizza party.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Best Picture: "12 Years a Slave"
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"
Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, "Her"
Best Foreign Language Film: "The Great Beauty," (Italy)
Best Animated Feature Film: "Frozen"
Best Production Design: Catherine Martin & Beverley Dunn, "The Great Gatsby."
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, "Gravity"
Best Film Editing: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, "Gravity."
Best Sound Mixing: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro, "Gravity"
Best Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle, "Gravity"
Best Original Score: Steven Price, "Gravity"
Best Original Song: "Let It Go" from "Frozen"
Best Costume Design: Catherine Martin, "The Great Gatsby"
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Best Documentary Feature: "20 Feet from Stardom."
Best Documentary Short Subject: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life."
Best Animated Short Film: "Mr. Hublot."
Best Live Action Short Film: "Helium."
Best Visual Effects: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould, "Gravity."

Saturday, March 1, 2014


With the Oscars being presented tomorrow, the thought comes to mind about the surprising number of amazing directors who over their long careers never received a competitive Academy Award. The names are staggering; Hitchcock, Kubrick, Altman, Bergman and Kurosawa are just a few of the talented auteurs behind some of the greatest films ever made who were overlooked for this honor. Indiewire has taken an in-depth look at some of the talented film makers who do not have an Oscar.

Click below to read the article:

20 Celebrated Filmmakers Who Never Won A Best Directing Oscar | The Playlist