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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel Blu-ray Review


If you've seen anything by Wes Anderson, you already know that he has a certain style. The sets, the colors, the costumes, the music and even the dialogue is all distinctly Wes Anderson. Love him or hate him, there's certainly no one like him. And if you fall into the former camp, you will absolutely love his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

That's because this is where everything and anything Wes Anderson comes to a head. It's the writer/director's most successful film to date, but also his most maniacal, most gruesome (those moments are brief, but certainly memorable), and possibly most entertaining. (Frankly, I could argue about that all day, being that Rushmore is one of my absolute favorites.)

The film kicks off in the 1960s, with Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) telling his tale to "The Author" (Jude Law).  Although Abraham stars as the old Zero, most of the film features the younger version, played by Tony Revolori. During the meeting, Zero delivers a bit of history about The Grand Budapest Hotel and more specifically, his time with Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the hotel's concierge during the 1930s and Zero's mentor. He also talks a bit about his love Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), a local pastry chef.


Paul Schlase, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes are part of the grand cast of "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Photo: © Fox Searchlight.

However, the real story is Gustave, who is quite the character -- and the charmer, assuming you're "rich, old, insecure, vain, superficial, blonde, (and) needy." After one of his lovers (a shockingly old looking Tilda Swinton) is murdered, Gustave and Zero bond over the outcome, which includes wealth, prison and a crazy chase that involves a car, a train, two gondola lifts, a sled, skis and a motorcycle.

The Grand Budapest Hotel will certainly keep you guessing. Nothing is too predictable, and that includes the cast. The film is loaded with memorable performances, some of which come at a rapid-fire pace. Revolori, Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Adrian Brody, and Edward Norton are certainly standouts. However, why Fiennes doesn't do more comedic roles is anyone's guess. He's pure magic.

The Picture

Wes Anderson doesn't just use his typical interesting imagery to tell the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel; he also uses different aspect ratios. The film includes 1.33:1, 1.85:1, and 2.35:1 images, depending on the time period. The switch is seamless and won't interrupt your viewing one bit. Also it's important to know that each image is just as gorgeous as the other, with beautiful colors and wonderful details. The purple of the uniforms, the red carpets, the red elevator, the snowy scenery and the fleshtones all look great. Anderson has used a similar color palette in the past, but I think this might be the most striking one yet. Speaking of which, the detail is just as strong, from the lines on Gustave's face, the freckles on Madame D., and the crinkles of the Mendl's uniform to the wallpaper, Jopling's rings, those delicious looking pastries, and a variety of killer mustaches.

The Sound

As with most Wes Anderson films, the soundtrack plays an important part here. However, this one doesn't include some of the recognizable acts that Anderson has used in the past, such as The Kinks, The Who, John Lennon and The Clash. Instead, it has Oscar-nominated composer Alexandre Desplat and the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra delivering a pretty memorable track. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix makes this music the star of the surrounds, but leaves plenty of room for excitement, which includes everything from the subtle, surprising sounds of a bathroom echo and popping champagne cork to the action of the cars, trains, motorcycles, sleds and gunshots. Also worth mentioning is the dialogue, which is clear throughout.

The Extras

Frankly, any extras section that includes Bill Murray is a good extras section. The highlight of the special features has Murray giving viewers a 4-minute tour behind the scenes, with a few stops around the film's German location. There's also a trio of weird little "Vignettes," which provide snippets and background on key portions of the film. Don't try to watch these before you actually view the movie. They will make no sense whatsoever. If you can't wait, there are plenty of things that are easier to understand packaged under the "Promotional Featurettes" section. This includes info on the cast and Wes Anderson, as well as 18 minutes of "The Making of The Grand Budapest Hotel." While this does have a lot of interview snippets and movie clips, the most interesting nuggets are hidden in the last half of this four-parter, under "Creating The Hotel" and "Creating A World."

Final Thoughts

Ralph Fiennes is worth the price of this Blu-ray alone, but the rest of The Grand Budapest Hotel is just as entertaining. Wes Anderson is as quirky as ever, with his story and his style. And if both of those things have turned you off in the past, this may be the film to turn you back. The supplements are a bit thin, but the fun audio track, the stunning video and the original story are enough to make this a very worthy purchase.


Product Details

Actors: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony RevoloriDirector: Wes AndersonAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), DVS 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish), DTS 5.1 (French, Russian)Subtitles: English SDH, Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, French, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish, UkrainianAspect Ratio: Number of Discs: 1Rating: RStudio: FoxBlu-ray Disc Release Date: June 17, 2014Run Time: 100 minutesList Price: $39.99Extras: Bill Murray Tours the TownVignettes: Kunstmuseum Zubrowka LectureThe Society of the Crossed KeysMendl's Secret RecipePromotional Featurettes: The Making of The Grand Budapest Hotel Part 1: The StoryPart 2: The Society of the Crossed KeysPart 3: Creating The HotelPart 4: Creating A WorldStills GalleryTheatrical TrailerSneak PeekDigital Copy

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