Tag Archive: ralph fiennes

Film Review The Grand Budapest Hotel

I liked it, but wanted to like it more after having so enjoyed the trailer.

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Dir. Sam Mendes
(2012, PG-13, 143 minutes)

I’m far from a James Bond aficionado. Skyfall is only the fourth film in the franchise I’ve seen, following two Pierce Brosnan entries (The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day) and Daniel Craig‘s first, Casino Royale, so I approach it less as part of a long-running tradition and more as a spy thriller on its own terms. By that standard it’s very good: kinetic but not overly choppy, driven by a simple, straight-ahead story and interesting characters.

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Dir. David Yates
(2011, PG-13, 130 min)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a surprisingly violent film that shows how far we’ve come in ten years. I remember a climactic scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) in which Ron (Rupert Grint) is thrown off a horse during a life-size chess game, and at the time that seemed like an especially dark turn for such young characters. But compare that to an early scene in this film in which Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) steps over a roomful of bloody corpses. Or one where he sics his giant snake on an underling’s neck. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Dir. David Yates
(2010, PG-13, 150 min)
★ ★ ★

At first, I thought a better title would have been Harry Potter and the Treacherous Exposition. For a while, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 — the penultimate film in the decade-long franchise — seems saturated with it. First we meet a new character, the Minister of Magic (Bill Nighy). Then we’re reintroduced to about a dozen of the good guys and another dozen bad guys, some more familiar than others; I never re-watch the previous films before seeing a new one — feels too much like homework — so I’ve grown accustomed to forgetting and relearning certain details as I go along.

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On DVD: “The Duchess”

Keira Knightley and Hayley Atwell, in 'The Duchess'

Dir. Saul Dibb
(PG-13) ★ ★ ★

The Duchess features lavish costumes by Michael O’Connor, extravagant production design by Michael Carlin, and a handsome score by Rachel Portman. The screenplay — by Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, and director Saul Dibb — is less ambitious. It presents British history with a dash of romance-novel feminism in the same vein as The Other Boleyn Girl. In this case, it’s the story of Georgiana (Keira Knightley), the Duchess of Devonshire, who is trapped in a loveless marriage and decides, “If my husband can take a lover, why can’t I?”

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“The Reader”

Dir. Stephen Daldry
(R) ★ ★

Perhaps I am easily distracted; I spent an inordinate amount of The Reader wondering what time it was. An intertitle at the start of the film identifies that we are in Berlin, Germany, but it does not tell us when. Consequently, as the screenplay tosses us about the 20th Century, I attentively watch the wrinkles: wondering why Kate Winslet looks so old in one scene, and why Ralph Fiennes looks so young in others, and why young David Kross still looks sixteen even when he should have aged ten years or so from one point of the film to the next. Later on, Winslet’s character is in her mid-sixties, but the makeup artist went a little nuts with the prosthetics so instead she looks like the creature from The Mummy Returns.

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On DVD: “In Bruges”

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, in

Dir. Martin McDonagh
(R) ★ ★ ★

In Bruges contains scenes that are utterly perfect in their writing, acting, and directing, and others that don’t work at all. It’s a black comedy that works when it’s black but not so much when it’s trying to be a comedy. Self-conscious, ersatz-Tarantino dialogue is a burden to scenes like the one where picking up a murder weapon turns into a conversation about the proper use of the word “alcoves.” Racial jokes abound, perhaps to underline that this is not a film about nice people, but there’s a relish to it that is off-putting, as if writer-director Martin McDonagh is enjoying himself too much.

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