The Grand Budapest Hotel is the first movie I've called a masterpiece while admitting I didn't even keep track of whether the story made sense.
The reason is that I was fascinated by the visual motif that contributed so much to the storybook effect that it shared with writer-director Wes Anderson's previous Moonrise Kingdom, which used the same technique to a lesser degree, but to much the same effect.
Since the irreverent treatment of Noah has been a tradition in theater since the medieval mystery plays, there is nothing particularly new about the free adaptation of Noah's story in the new movie, Noah.
What is new, and the best thing in the movie, is Industrial Light and Magic's presentation of what I call the "Rock People," gigantic monsters apparently made of volcanic rock with fire glowing inside. They are surprisingly sympathetic, to the point that I wondered why they weren't granted room in the ark.
Like all reviewers, I am sometimes required to go to movies that are not my type and which I am not likely to do justice to. In the case of Need For Speed, for example, a friend told me I should have known that cars that are swerving on the straightaway, skidding on the corners and sometimes spinning around, are being very skillfully driven at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
I thought Need For Speed was simply one of those usual Hollywood hymns to reckless driving.
The current word is that Hayao Miyazaki, the greatest and perhaps the last of the movies' hand-drawn-feature animators, is going to retire after his latest releast, The Wind Rises. And while I am always skeptical about show business retirements, I would like to report that the maker of Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and so many other animated masterworks, was going out in a blaze of glory.
But The Wind Rises isn't nearly up to his top standard.
The first thing to realize about Stalingrad is that it is not the story of the World War II battle that many cite as the beginning of the end for Hitler's Germany. It is the story of a little group of Russians who are defending the city and a little group of Germans who are about to attack it, both of which groups include a woman-- one who is trapped with the Russians and one who is captured by the Germans. And Stalingrad is as much the story of the women as the story of the men.
Toward the end of World War II, the United States set up a military unit it never had before and unfortunately has never had since, a unit whose duty was to protect national and international treasures from the destruction of war. The movie Monuments Men is about the unit’s efforts, and while it is pretty fictionalized – watch for the closing credit on that subject - I’m glad somebody is drawing attention to what they did. But the movie itself is not very impressive.
Labor Day is a good movie badly damaged by a single fundamental mistake: Almost all the action is chronologically limited to one Labor-Day-extended weekend, and while the physical action may be credible over just three days, the psychological and human-relations developments are such as should have been allowed at least three months.