Stressed over theses? Exams got you down? Realizing that you’re almost a senior and also, how are you this old? Take a break and escape into the warm embrace of a nice movie, and look no further than these March screen gems!
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
By Emma Davis, Assistant Food Editor
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a pleasure to watch. As tender as “Moonrise Kingdom” and as darkly comic as “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Wes Anderson’s latest feature is a quirk-filled reimagining of the hospitality industry. Set in the Republic of Zubrowka, a fictional Soviet state, it begins with a young writer’s arrival at a dilapidated but once elegant mountain-top resort, the hotel of the film’s name. When the writer (Jude Law) meets the elderly Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the hotel’s proprietor, he learns of Zero’s adventures as former lobby boy and best friend to the unforgettable M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). M. Gustave, the hotel’s concierge, is accused of murder, and he and Zero must enlist the help of a charming cast of characters while staying one step ahead of the scheming aristocrats and assassin on their tail.
Although the candy-colored tones of the set décor suggest otherwise, the film can be quite grim, as Anderson clearly has no remorse about disposing of his protagonists and their pets with precise yet stomach-churning gore. Likewise, the dialogue is often peppered with profanity, which seems at odds with the quaint phrasing of the time period but never feels wholly out-of-place in a scene. The hardest directional choice to swallow, however, is the characters’ inability to do anything but flee at a brisk walk until the absolute last second of being pursued. Though this certainly heightens the urgency of chase scenes, it is one of the few aspects of the film that tends toward the twee.
Much like “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is an endlessly self-referential and highly-detailed portrait of another world, real in its emotional sincerity but elaborately false in its façade. The humor is pitch-perfect—listen for what is arguably the best bisexuality joke of the year—and the setting is enchanting, not unlike seeing an outlandish diorama come to life. And, of course, the acting is fabulous, with particularly brilliant performances on the part of Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, who plays the young Zero. Though it may not have the same historic or cinematic significance as a film like “Twelve Years A Slave,” for example, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is immensely enjoyable, and you needn’t look further for an afternoon delight this spring.
“Muppets Most Wanted”
By Michael Darer, Staff Writer
Part of the dynamic among the Muppets has always relied on their willingness to indulge in absolute chaos. Whether that’s the nonsensical guttural ramblings of the Swedish Chef or the antics of Gonzo, the Muppets have always found themselves in the purest form when in the clutches of an almost violent sort of motion, bouncing off one another and off their environment until something breaks. The best episodes of “The Muppets Show,” and certainly the best Muppets movies, have always found a way to harness this, to somehow lock it into orbit around the crucial self-referentiality of the characters, who have always seemed remarkably keen and in control despite the absolute bedlam that accompanies them. There needs to be a balance for the Muppets to really thrive as a group, and, often, it’s a difficult balance to strike.
“The Muppets,” released in 2011, managed to find this sweet spot, fusing its manic vitality with smart self-awareness and a jaunty reverence for its source material. The songs and the jokes hit home, the physical comedy eluded the sort of numbing clatter that overtakes a lot of slapstick-heavy children’s films, and, for added effect, the emotional core of the movie shone with tangible and genuine energy. In “Muppets Most Wanted,” the sequel to that film (which, depending on who you are, can be seen as a sequel in and of itself, or a plain reboot), the calibration that worked so well a few years back seems ever so slightly off.
This never sinks the film, or even robs it of its fun in any major way. But for whatever reason, this time around, the Muppets just seem a little less like the Muppets. Maybe it’s the plot, which, for a Muppets film, is oddly convoluted, involving a case of mistaken identity and a host of resulting investigation and hijinks; or maybe it’s the film’s seeming obsession with cameos (which are legion, and mostly wonderful, but also feel mildly overstated). Whatever the ultimate reason, “Muppets Most Wanted” never takes off in the way of its predecessor. Make no mistake: it’s very funny, with Tina Fey and all the other human characters clearly having a delightfully absurd blast. Still, there always seems to be something just beyond the reach of the picture, something as unique and unnameable as the chemistry of the ensemble or gesture toward it. Whatever this thing may be, its absence is felt, even if the film is able to admirably move forward without it. It’s all enjoyable, just never really special.
By William Donnelly, Staff Writer
Ever since “Veronica Mars” was prematurely cancelled in 2007, there have been talks of reviving it in the form of a movie. After raising a record amount in its Kickstarter campaign last March, that movie finally made its way to theaters on March 15. Thankfully, the film is everything a Veronica Mars movie should be.
For the uninitiated, “Veronica Mars” starred Kristen Bell as the titular teenage private eye, solving cases ranging from her best friend’s murder to dognapping for three seasons. At the beginning of the film, Veronica, now several years out of college, has forsaken her home of Neptune, Calif.and detective work for a cushy lawyering job in New York City. But all it takes is one call from Veronica’s former flame, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), to get her to return to Neptune. As Veronica quickly learns, things have changed while she was gone, and not for the better.
All principal members of the cast reprise their roles, and even the original actors of minor characters return to their parts. (The one exception is Leighton Meester, who was replaced as Carrie Bishop by Andrea Estella.) It doesn’t seem like any of them had any trouble stepping back into their old roles, as the actors are all in top form. Bell is just as snarky and witty as ever, and she and Enrico Colantoni—as Veronica’s father, Keith—have the same believable father-daughter chemistry that they always did.
Series creator Rob Thomas has clearly kept all of these characters alive in has head, as not one of them feels mischaracterized. Thomas and co-writer Diane Ruggiero’s dialogue is sharp, and the mystery is engrossing. Though the conclusion of the main plot isn’t exactly unpredictable, the circumstances of it are chilling. The subplot—about Neptune’s sheriff department’s implementation of a stop and frisk policy—is also relevant and intriguing.
At the end of the day, the “Veronica Mars” movie is still funded by and made predominately for fans. Though Thomas and Ruggiero do their best to make the script accessible to new viewers, I, as a fan of the series, can’t say how successful they were. If one who is unfamiliar with the TV show is intrigued enough to venture into a theater showing it, though, he or she will be greeted by a cast of vibrant characters and a fun, exciting plot.