Wes Anderson devotees are rewarded with the director’s most fully realized film The Grand Budapest Hotel and boomer cartoon buffs get a surprisingly satisfying update of a ’60 TV classic in Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Also, it’s the last week to catch many of the Oscar winners in theaters before they go to home video—and you owe it to yourself to see them on a big screen if possible.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
No filmmaker has a more fierce following than Wes Anderson ( The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom), and his fans will raise huzzahs over the familiar quirks and cameos in his latest movie. But if you’ve been on the fence (or clear on the other side of it) regarding Anderson, this may be the film that makes a believer of you. A dazzlingly realized vision of Europe between the wars serves as the backdrop for a dizzying story about a grand hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes), the lobby boy he takes under his wing (Tony Revolori), and their unwitting involvement in a murder mystery.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
If this Dreamworks update lacks the anarchic wackiness of Jay Ward’s 1960s TV series, it takes a noble stab at celebrating the show’s delightful alternative takes on history while adding an element of warmth to the relationship between a dog and his boy. The voice work is first rate, with Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell stepping in admirably as Peabody. Listen for Stanley Tucci as Leonardo da Vinci and Mel Brooks as (who else?) Albert Einstein. Question: Does Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane know just how much his Brown-educated pooch Brian owes to Harvard-bred Peabody?
The Face of Love
A widow, still grieving after five years, stumbles across a guy who looks exactly like her dead hubby—and becomes obsessed with recreating her old life with him. It starts out like a Vertigo rehash with Annette Bening standing in for Jimmy Stewart and Ed Harris for Kim Novak, but the stars make a whole lot more of the warmed-over premise than you’d expect. Bening, in particular, is touching as a woman who senses her obsession is hijacking her good sense, but who is unable—and just a bit unwilling—to seize back control.
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Help make movie review history with the first-ever all-singing movie review: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Still Out There . . .
12 Years a Slave
Oscar Winner: Best Picture
Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery leads a powerful cast. Movies from Roots to Django Unchained have shown us the evils of slavery; 12 Years a Slave makes us feel the lash. FULL REVIEW
You won’t have more fun at the movies than you’ll find here with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Louis C.K. and Jennifer Lawrence as assorted con artists and Feds conspiring to bring down crooked politicians. It’s based on the 1980s Abscam scandal, but we have a feeling writer/director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) made up all the more hilarious stuff. FULL REVIEW
Dallas Buyers Club
Nominated for 6 Oscars
At the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, a tough heterosexual Texas electrician (Matthew McConaughey) gets the dread diagnosis — then sets up a lucrative business smuggling alternative anti-AIDS drugs into the state. McConaughey, who has been rising from beefcake idol to accomplished actor, may nab his first Oscar nomination for his compelling performance.
Nominated for 2 Oscars (Plus 1 nomination for Get a Horse!)
By now the animation wizards at Disney have this spunky-young-woman-defeats-evil thing down pat, but the real reason to duck into this film is the Oscar-nominated cartoon short that precedes it. Get a Horse! is a hand-drawn Mickey Mouse cartoon done in the early Disney style circa Steamboat Willie. Director Dorothy McKim even uses archival recordings of Walt Disney himself providing the voice of the world’s favorite rodent.
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron); Nominated for 10 Oscars
Stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are fine and the film’s visual re-creation of a space voyage is breathtaking (especially in 3-D), but cowriter/director Alfonso Cuaron should have launched with a decent script. FULL REVIEW
Nominated for 5 Oscars
What happens if you love your technology just a tad too much? Joaquin Phoenix finds out when he falls hard for the seductive female voice (Scarlett Johansson) in his computer operating system. Writer/director Spike Jonze creates a compelling portrait of a near future when people would rather interact with their machines than each other.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nominated for 2 Oscars
Writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s most balanced movie ever is a fond look at the early 1960s Greenwich Villlage folk music scene. Oscar Isaac is irresistibly mopey as the title character, but the real treat comes when Llewlyn hitches a ride to Chicago with a blustery, bloated blues musician played with great aplomb by John Goodman. FULL REVIEW
The Lego Movie
There’s a lot more for grownups here than you’d expect: Packed with gags and clever toy-world references, it’s the story of a nondescript LEGO minifigure (voiced by Craig Berry) saving his world from an evil villain (Will Ferrell) who wants to (gasp!) glue all the blocks together, stifling creativity forever. Written and directed by a bunch of guys from TV Sitcomville (How I Met Your Mother, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), it’s fast, funny, and feel-good.
The Monuments Men
George Clooney enlists Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Cate Blanchett to help him patrol Nazi-occupied Europe in search of stolen art works. A greater sense of urgency would have helped push the plot along, but what’s more fun than hanging out with George and his buds for two hours? It’s based on a true story and Clooney, natty in his U.S. Army officer’s uniform, looks more Clark Gable-like than ever. FULL REVIEW
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Actor (Bruce Dern), Best Intergenerational Movie; Nominated for 6 Oscars
In a career-defining performance, Bruce Dern is a slightly befuddled fellow who’s convinced he’s won $1 million in a sweepstakes. Will Forte is the good son who offers to drive him from Montana to Nebraska to claim the dubious prize. Amazing performances all around, directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt). FULL REVIEW
Liam Neeson should fire his travel agent after this missed connection: He plays an alcoholic air marshall who gets a mid-flight text warning him that if $150 million isn’t deposited into a bank account pronto, passengers are going to start dying. The suspects are as numerous as the plot holes, and Neeson, though he tries hard, seems to be losing interest in this action hero phase of his illustrious career.
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Actress (Judi Dench); Nominated for 4 Oscars
In a season of extraordinary acting accomplishments, Judi Dench gives the performance of a lifetime as the title character, a woman seeking the son she gave up as a child. Steve Coogan, who also wrote the film’s moving and disarmingly funny script, costars as the investigative reporter who helps unravel a tangle of deceit and corruption. Based on a true story. FULL REVIEW
On the list of four writers who concocted this epic story of slaves and gladiators battling each other and a certain nearby volcano is Julian Fellowes, creator of the decidedly more staid Downton Abbey. Go for the human drama if you like: Most of us are here to see Mount Vesuvius turn Rome’s exotic port city into the original Lava Lamp.
Son of God
Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (she also plays Mother Mary) have edited down their epic TV series The Bible to tell the story of Jesus, and it looks mighty good on the big screen. Jesus is played with easy charm and frequent intensity by Diogo Morgado, who in a century of film is probably the most convincing guy ever to tackle the role—you can really imagine 5,000 folks schlepping out to the desert to hear him speak.
The Wind Rises
Nominated for One Oscar
Some of the most beautiful films ever made have come from the pen of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and this—reportedly his last—may be the most stunning of them all, and not only for its visual magic. While most of Miyazaki’s classics (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle) feature plucky youngsters and fantastic creatures, this time he tells the story of a very real person: Jiro Horikoshi, who developed Japan’s revolutionary fighter planes prior to World War II. In following Horikoshi from childhood to first love to professional challenge, Miyazaki taps into real sentiments of passion, ambition, and regret in ways he never has before.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Nominated for 5 Oscars
Teaming for the fifth time with Leonardo DiCaprio, director Martin Scorsese lets loose a cannonade of sex, drugs, and no-holds-barred avarice in telling the mostly true story of a New York stockbroker who made an outrageous fortune by swindling investors in the 1980s and ’90s. Like his central character, Scorsese once again proves that nothing succeeds like excess. FULL REVIEWar