The Grand Budapest Hotel

In the present day, a teenage girl approaches a statue in a courtyard. In her arms is a memoir by “The Author.” She begins reading about a trip he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in the late 1960s. He discovered that the nearly deserted hotel, located in the Republic of Zubrowka, a nation ravaged by war and poverty, had fallen on hard times and become dilapidated. The Author meets Zero Moustafa, the hotel’s owner, who tells him over dinner the tale of how he took ownership of the Grand Budapest and why he is unwilling to close it down.

Moustafa’s story begins in 1932 during the final years of the hotel’s glory days. Zubrowka is on the verge of war but this is of little concern to M. Gustave, the Grand Budapest’s devoted concierge. When he is not attending to the needs of the hotel’s wealthy clientele, managing its staff or training the new lobby boy, Zero (a younger Moustafa), Gustave courts a series of aging, blonde women who all flock to the hotel to enjoy his “exceptional service.” One of these, Madame D, spends the night with Gustave prior to her departure.

A month later, he is informed that Madame D has died under mysterious circumstances. He and Zero race to her wake where he learns that she bequeathed him a valuable painting, Boy with Apple, in her will. This enrages her family, all of whom hoped to inherit it, especially her son, Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis. Gustave and Zero take the painting and hide it in a safe at the Grand Budapest. Gustave is then arrested and framed for the murder of Madame D.

In prison, Gustave befriends a group of hardened cons who include him in their escape plan. With the aid of Zero’s new fiancée Agatha, the group escape the maximum security prison. They part ways and Gustave enlists Zero to prove his innocence. Their adventure takes them to a mountaintop monastery where they meet with Madame D’s butler Serge X, the only person who can provide Gustave with an alibi for the night of Madame D’s murder. However, Serge is murdered by J.G. Jopling, a henchman hired by Dmitri. Zero and Gustave steal a sled and chase Jopling as he flees the monastery. During a clash on the edge of a cliff, Zero kills the assassin and rescues his mentor.

Zero and Gustave return to the Hotel, which the military has commandeered as war has just broken out. They find that Dmitri has also appeared, chasing Agatha, who was entrusted with the painting. A chase and a gunfight ensue, and a different version of Madame D’s will is discovered hidden in the painting by Serge X, in which she bequeaths her entire fortune, including the Grand Budapest, to Gustave in the event that she should be murdered.

During a train trip, soldiers search Gustave’s carriage and he is killed while trying to protect Zero. A heartbroken Zero vows to continue his legacy at the Grand Budapest, but the ongoing conflict and the ravages of time take their toll. Agatha succumbs to a disease and dies a few years later.

Moustafa confesses to the Author that he cannot bring himself to close the hotel because it is his last link to his dearly departed wife. The Author later departs for South America and never returns to the hotel. The hotel is eventually demolished, though Moustafa’s ultimate fate is left unknown. Back in the present, the girl continues reading the author’s story about the Grand Budapest. 

Onegin 1999

A favorite

Another member of the Fiennes family leaves a mark in the film business, as Martha Fiennes makes her big-screen directorial debut with a screen adaptation of the verse novel by Aleksander Pushkin, with her big brother Ralph Fiennes in the leading role. Onegin (Fiennes) is a blase man who has grown weary of the social whirl of his life in St. Petersburg in the 1820s. Onegin’s wealthy uncle has recently passed on, bequeathing him a large estate in the country, where the financially embarrassed Onegin has now chosen to live. Onegin makes fast friends with his neighbor Lensky (Toby Stephens), who introduces Onegin to his fiancée Olga (Lena Headley). Olga in turn introduces him to her mother (Harriet Walker) and her younger sister, Tatyana (Liv Tyler). Onegin finds Tatyana interesting, and she is strongly infatuated with him, finding him coolly attractive and enjoying his straightforward way of expressing himself. Tatyana makes her feelings known to Onegin in a love letter, but he calmly rejects her advances. Lensky senses Tatyana’s attraction to Onegin and talks to him about her; Lensky is shocked when Onegin says he regards her as unintelligent, and in a moment of anger Lensky challenges his friend to a duel. Neither man wants to kill the other, but both are too stubborn to back down, and Onegin ends up shooting Lensky, forcing him to flee to parts unknown. Six years later, a older and more humble Onegin re-encounters the married Tatyana and begs her for a second chance.

Synopsis by Mark Deming

 

The Voyage of Doctor Dollitle in April 2019

EMMA THOMPSON, BANDERAS, MICHAEL SHEEN, RALPH FIENNES

  Universal Pictures is gathering a rather stellar cast for their live action adaptation of THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLLITLE which will see Robert Downey Jr playing the famous doctor who can speak to animals. Antonio Banderas will apparently play his enemy, a pirate named Rassouli while Michael Sheen is set to play Mudfly! Meanwhile, British thespians Emma Thompson and Ralph Fiennes will lend their voices to some of the talking animals alongside young Tom Holland! An adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s classic book from the 1920’s the movie is viewed as the potential opening for a whole franchise.

Doctor DoLittle is set for April 2019 release!

Schindler’s List 1993

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Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes

To call Schindler’s List “a movie” seems like an understatement, as few films have ever presented as effective—or harrowing—an accounting of the Holocaust as Steven Spielberg’s epic retelling of Oskar Schindler, the German business owner who saved the lives of thousands of concentration camp-bound refugees by offering them employment in his factories. While many consider Schindler’s List the film that Spielberg was born to make, the director himself worried that he did not have the maturity to pull off such a massive undertaking, and so it was originally pitched to Roman Polanski, Sydney Pollack and Martin Scorsese (who was officially attached).

But then Spielberg reconsidered. And from the moment he took the reins, he was clear about one thing: the film would be shot like a documentary, which meant that he did not want any stars in the key roles (both Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were still relative unknowns at the time) and that it would be shot in black and white using mostly handheld cameras. It would also be filmed in as many of the actual locations as possible (with the exception of Auschwitz, which they were forbidden from entering). And it’s from these elements precisely that Schindler’s List draws its cinematic power.

Based on True Story

Strongly Recommended

 

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The Invisible Woman 2013

The Invisible Woman 2013

Synopsis by Jason Buchanan

Director Ralph Fiennes teams with screenwriter Abi Morgan to adapt Claire Tomalin‘s book detailing the clandestine, 13-year-long love affair between celebrated English author Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and 18-year-old actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), whose name was effectively erased from the history books following Dickens‘ death in 1870. Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander costar.