THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Review

by     Posted 48 days ago

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By this point, you know whether or not you love the films of Wes Anderson.  He’s a true auteur with an unmistakable style, and unless he undergoes a radical transformation, his fans and his detractors will remain firmly entrenched.  His latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, won’t change anyone’s mind about the director nor should it.  The movie is almost the platonic ideal of Wes Anderson picture, and yet it’s free from over-indulgence and self-congratulations.  The film is vibrant, witty, pristine, and a wonder to behold.  While it falls a bit short of the emotional impact of a couple of his other movies, Anderson has still crafted a captivating mixture of magic and melancholy.

2014 Oscar Nominations Announced; AMERICAN HUSTLE and GRAVITY Lead with 10 Nominations Each [Updated with Commentary]

by     Posted 98 days ago

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The nominations for the 86th Academy Awards have been announced. American Hustle and Gravity lead with 10 nominations each, while 12 Years a Slave isn’t too far behind with 9 nominations.  Looking over my predictions, there weren’t actually too many surprises this morning–at least no genuine “snubs” on the scale of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow last year.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale made the Best Actor cut over Robert Redford and Tom HanksHer, Dallas Buyers Club, and Philomena all got Best Picture nominations over Saving Mr. Banks, and Sally Hawkins landed a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in Blue Jasmine, seemingly taking Oprah Winfrey‘s spot from Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  Also, the Academy apparently did not take a liking to Saving Mr. Banks, as the film missed out on a Best Picture nomination and a Best Actress nomination for Emma Thompson.

Hit the jump to take a look at the full nominations list.  The 86th Oscars will be broadcast March 2nd on ABC. [Update: I've added my commentary on some of the categories after the jump.]

Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Jean Dujardin Spotted on MONUMENTS MEN Set

by     Posted 311 days ago

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Production is currently underway in Germany on George Clooney’s next directorial feature, the WWII drama The Monuments Men, and some new images of the star-studded cast on set have surfaced.  Based on a true story, the pic centers on an unlikely World War II platoon made up of museum directors, curators, and art historians tasked by FDR with going into Germany and rescuing artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves before they are lost forever.  These set photos give us a look at Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, and Clooney all in character, along with what looks to be a cameo by composer Alexandre Desplat.  This is absolutely one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I can’t wait to see the ensemble’s interplay when the film hits theaters.

Hit the jump to check out the images.  The film also stars Cate Blanchett and Bob BalabanThe Monuments Men opens on December 18th.

Production Begins on George Clooney’s THE MONUMENTS MEN Starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray

by     Posted 1 year, 50 days ago

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Production has commenced on George Clooney’s fifth feature directorial effort, the action-thriller The Monuments Men.  The Columbia Pictures/20th Century Fox co-production tells the true story of an unlikely World War II platoon made up of museum directors, curators, and art historians tasked by FDR with going into Germany and rescuing artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves before they are lost forever.  Clooney directs, stars in, and produces the film alongside his Smokehouse Productions partner Grant Heslov, with whom he also co-wrote the script.  Moreover, Clooney has assembled a truly remarkable cast that includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, John Goodman, and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey).

Unfortunately Daniel Craig is not listed as part of the cast in the official press release, so it appears that he may have dropped out of the film.  Hit the jump for more, including the full press release.

Alexandre Desplat to Score Wes Anderson’s GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

by     Posted 1 year, 113 days ago

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Coming off of 2012’s splendid Moonrise Kingdom, writer/director Wes Anderson is putting the pieces together for his next feature, Grand Budapest Hotel.  As usual with Anderson’s films, plot details are scarce, but we do know that the story takes place 85 years ago and centers on the troubles and tribulations of a hotel concierge played by Ralph Fiennes.  As production gears up to begin, word now comes that one of Anderson’s recent collaborators will be joining the project: composer Alexandre Desplat.  Hit the jump for more details.

104 Scores Advance in Best Original Score Oscar Race

by     Posted 1 year, 134 days ago

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The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has narrowed down the Best Original Score race…to 104 entries.  The Academy has shortlisted over 100 scores from 2012 that are eligible to compete for the gold on Oscar night, including three from Alexandre Desplat alone (Argo, Rise of the Guardians, and Zero Dark Thirty).  Every year there are a few scores that are ruled ineligible for one reason or another, and this year those ineligible films include The Bourne Legacy, Moonrise Kingdom, and Rust and Bone.

For my money, the standouts of 2012 were Beasts of the Southern Wild, Looper, and The Dark Knight Rises.  I have a feeling Howard Shore’s work on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will end up being a favorite of mine as well.  Hit the jump to check out the full list of 104 eligible scores, and leave thoughts on your personal favorites from 2012 in the comments section.  The nominations for the 85th Academy Awards will be announced on January 10th, followed by the ceremony on February 24th.

Composer Alexandre Desplat Talks RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, Collaborating with Directors, ZERO DARK THIRTY, ARGO, THE MONUMENTS MEN, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 151 days ago

With Rise of the Guardians opening this week, I recently got to see the finished film and it’s really well done.  Not only is the animation great to look at, it’s got a strong story that’s character driven and it doesn’t rely on stupid jokes.  In addition, unlike most superhero films that spend half the time introducing characters by explaining their origin and showing off their powers, what’s fantastic about Rise of the Guardians is that we join almost everyone in the middle of the story.  If you’re not familiar with the story, it  revolves around the rebellious Jack Frost (Chris Pine) teaming up with other mythical figures North aka Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), E. Aster Bunnyman aka Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth aka The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman to battle the evil Pitch (Jude Law).  Here’s my video blog review and all our previous coverage.

To help promote the film, last week I got on the phone with composer Alexandre Desplat.  We talked about how he got involved in Rise of the Guardians, his extremely busy year, his collaboration with the director on animated movies versus live-action features, and more.  In addition, we also talked about some of his other projects like Ben Affleck‘s Argo, Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty, George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, other possible future projects, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

Composer Alexandre Desplat Talks Scoring Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY; Says the Film Is Like a Japanese Kurosawa Movie

by     Posted 1 year, 165 days ago

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As we move closer to awards season, one of the more interesting films coming up is director Kathryn Bigelow’s drama Zero Dark Thirty.  The film documents the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, culminating in the now-famous SEAL Team Six operation.  The production has been shrouded in a massive veil of secrecy given the sensitive subject matter, but it’s expected to be a major awards player given that it serves as Bigelow’s follow-up to her Best Picture-winning The Hurt Locker.

Steve recently spoke with the incredibly talented (and prolific) composer Alexandre Desplat about his work on the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film Rise of the Guardians (you can click here for Steve’s thoughts on the movie), and Desplat took a moment to talk about his unique score for Zero Dark Thirty and what he thought of the film.  Hit the jump to see what he had to say.

Daniel Craig Joins George Clooney’s MONUMENTS MEN; Dujardin, Murray, and Blanchett Confirmed to Co-Star

by     Posted 1 year, 176 days ago

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George Clooney has lined up an incredible cast for his next film, Monuments Men.  As we previously reported, the story centers on a group of art experts selected by the U.S. Government to chase down the stolen art of Europe during World War II.  Aside from the terrific premise, Clooney, who co-wrote the film with partner Grant Heslov, will star alongside a cast that includes Daniel Craig, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett.  Dujardin, Murray, and Blanchett had previously been mentioned in connection with the film, and Craig is a strong addition along with other new cast members John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville.

Hit the jump for more.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 344 days ago

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Movies like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are difficult to review.  On the one hand, part of me wants to rip Stephen Daldry’s film to shreds and call it a manipulative, corny, over-the-top, Oscar-seeking mess.  But the other part of me wants to drop the cynicism and enjoy the heartfelt emotional journey for what it aspires to be: a film that attempts to cope with the aftershocks of 9/11, and mourn those we lost in the fire.

Watching Extremely Loud on Blu-ray over the weekend, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  While not exactly the masterpiece it thinks it is, Daldry’s film at least sidesteps the problems I had with the director’s previous efforts, especially the overtly saccharine The Reader and the morbid, depressing The Hours – both of which tried to do too much and therefore lacked focus.  Hit the jump for my review.

Composer Alexandre Desplat Talks EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, Wes Anderson and MOONRISE KINGDOM, and More

by     Posted 2 years, 104 days ago

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Over the last few years, composer Alexandre Desplat has gone from genre to genre and consistently delivered fantastic scores.  Here’s a few that he’s done since 2009: Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Prophet, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2, The Ghost Writer, The Ides of March, Carnage, and, most recently, director Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  With his ever expanding resume and the fact that he records rather quickly for a composer, he’s rapidly become one of the biggest composers in Hollywood. As a big fan of his work, it’s great to see.

The other day I got to sit down with Desplat for an extended interview.  During our wide ranging conversation, we talked about what the past few years have been like, his writing process, what it’s like to work with some of the biggest directors in the world, how he picks his projects, his favorite scores that he didn’t write, and how he got involved in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which he did in three weeks!).  In addition, we talked about his work on the final two Harry Potter films, Twilight: New Moon, and Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom, which he finished last month.  Hit the jump for more.

EXTREMLY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE Review

by     Posted 2 years, 121 days ago

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September 11th, like any tragedy, can be easily exploited.  It can be exploited for profit, for political gain, and for an easy strike at your emotional soft spots.  But it can also be handled in a mature, thoughtful manner like Paul GreengrassUnited 93.  It’s been over ten years since 9/11 and we must start accepting that the event can be used in a story that’s not directly about 9/11.  That’s an incredibly tricky proposition because of the easy route to exploiting our national tragedy, and that’s where Stephen Daldry‘s adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close seems to be going at its outset.  Daldry has to scale a mountain of negative expectations as we struggle to see how 9/11 could be absolutely essential to the story.  We must also contend with a painfully affected character played by a child actor gives a off-putting, robotic performance.  But Daldry’s brilliant direction ultimately brings the 9/11 plot point and the bizarre lead performance together to create an emotional finale.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2 Review

by     Posted 2 years, 284 days ago

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Splitting J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a risky proposition from a narrative standpoint.  Financially, it was an unsurprising move, but if you have one movie that’s all slow, methodical character development and the second movie that’s all fast-paced action, then each movie could be monotonous because they’ve lost the other half of their story.  Both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows managed to avoid that problem.  The first part, while mostly centered on wandering and quiet moments, still managed to work in humor and thrilling set pieces.  By contrast, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is an almost non-stop epic battle that still finds time for the character development and deeply moving moments the series became known for.  It is the grandest of all of the Harry Potter films in scope, in action, and in heartbreak.

The Scores of BLACK SWAN, TRUE GRIT, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, and THE FIGHTER Ineligible for Oscar

by     Posted 3 years, 125 days ago

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Bad news if you’re a Clint Mansell fan. The composer’s exceptional work for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan has been deemed ineligible for Oscar consideration due to its usage of music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. While not exactly a surprise, it’s still a shame considering the score’s unique, even complicated structure.

According to Variety, Carter Burwell’s scores for True Grit and The Kids Are All Right (which he composed alongside Nathan Larson and Craig Wedren) and Michael Brook’s work on The Fighter have also been disqualified. Alexandre Desplat’s score for The King’s Speech, however, which recently received a Golden Globe-nomination, has been deemed eligible despite its usage of classical works. Hit the jump for more.

2010 European Film Award Winners Announced; THE GHOST WRITER Wins Six

by     Posted 3 years, 140 days ago

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The 2010 European Film Award Winners were announced this weekend, and the big takeaway is that the European Film Academy really liked The Ghost Writer.  The Roman Polanski-directed feature was warmly received on this side of the Atlantic, but I’d be shocked if it swarms the Oscars with quite the ferocity it did the EFAs. Six awards in total, including best film, director (Polanski), actor (Ewan McGregor), screenwriter (Polanski and Robert Harris), production designer (Albrecht Konrad), and composer (Alexandre Desplat).

The ceremony wasn’t entirely Ghost-written, though: Lourdes, The Illusionist, Carlos, and Lebanon were among the other winners.  Hit the jump for the full list.

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