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To say that our top three critics don’t always see eye-to-eye would be an understatement, but they can all agree on at least one thing: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is one of Wes Anderson’s best movies, and one of the strongest entries in a year that has so far offered no shortage of cinematic excellence. Also mentioned by at least one critic: a steamy gay-cruising thriller, a hotly debated biblical epic, and two staggeringly ambitious magnum opuses that clocked in at more than four hours apiece. There will be many more hours (and weeks, and months) of moviegoing to come before they have their final say on the year in movies, but at the moment, 2014 is off to an excellent start.
Here, listed in alphabetical order, are our critics’ picks for the best films released theatrically from January to June 2014:
Re-reading my Variety review of “Moonrise Kingdom,” I found the line, “While (Wes) Anderson is essentially a miniaturist, making dollhouse movies about meticulously appareled characters in perfectly appointed environments, each successive film finds him working on a more ambitious scale.” His latest is the apotheosis of that aesthetic — a nested series of stories as complex and intricately detailed as fine Swiss clockwork, given soul by the great Ralph Fiennes.
Between this and “The Lego Movie,” we’ve been spoiled by great animation this year. My expectations were sky-high for the follow-up to DreamWorks cartoon coming-of-ager, and writer-director Dean DeBlois exceeded them, delivering a sequel with integrity, one that respects and expands upon the original while aging the characters five years — a rarity in a medium where Bart Simpson has spent the last 25 years repeating Mrs. Krabappel’s fourth-grade class.
What an exhilarating experiment: Using just one actor (Tom Hardy), one location (a moving BMW) and a series of phone calls as his script, writer-director Steven Knight has crafted a gripping character-driven drama. It’s the polar opposite of all the comicbook movies hogging screens these days, not simply for its lack of visual effects and spandex suits, but because “Locke” recognizes that a flawed human being is infinitely more interesting than a superhero.
- Variety Staff
This weekend will not be a wash for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The controversial biblical epic opened with $15.2 million from 3,500 locations yesterday, including $1.6 million from Thursday pm previews. That puts Noah on course for close to $44 million through Sunday – well above the $33 million Paramount said it was expecting. Anything above $43.5 million would also give Russell Crowe the best opening of his career (outside of his supporting turn in Man of Steel). The weekend’s second major release should also mark a career milestone for star Arnold Schwarzenegger, though not the kind stars typically strive for. Sabotage – Arnie’s third major release since January 2013 – could end up as his worst debut since Red Sonja, in 1985. From its 2,486 locations, Sabotage brought in $1.82 million on Friday, which suggests an opening weekend in the $5-$6 million range. Finally, after two weeks in limited release, director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel expanded to almost 1,000 locations on Friday, »
- Nicole Pedersen
For this week’s Thinking Out Loud missive, I wanted to start by talking a bit about the best March releases that I can, well…think off. I initially thought about this after seeing Noah earlier this week, since it’s much better than the March release date suggests. Though not a perfect movie by any stretch, it’s a quality film brimming with ambition, far more in place for a summer or even winter release as opposed to what this time period that used to be almost a dumping ground. As such, I looked back at some of the more notable flicks to have come out during the month, and lo and behold, we’ve even had a few Oscar winners hit during the month of March. It’s certainly the best of the early season months, that’s for sure… I’m not going to talk about any of the titles specifically, »
- Joey Magidson
While Ralph Fiennes' M. Gustave leads the way in Wes Anderson's utterly delightful "The Grand Budapest Hotel" as the concierge against which all others are measured, one of the many pleasures of the movie is discovering that he's not alone in ensuring the highest standards of his profession are met. As M. Gustave untangles himself from a conspiracy involving murder and a prized artwork, he has to call upon his colleagues—part of The Society Of The Crossed Keys—for their assistance. With those associates played by the likes of Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, it makes for some truly good fun in an already screwball journey. If you're looking for a little more flavor to those characters, today we have an exclusive which opens up a bit more to their varying personalities. Randall Poster has put together Spotify playlists for Gustave H., M. Ivan, M. »
- Kevin Jagernauth
This weekend we have two predictions from Laremy that differ by quite a large margin, one that's just a smidge off and another that's spot on. The widest discrepancy is at the top where Laremy went below the $40.5 million tracking for Darren Aronofsky's Noah at $37.4 million while the readers, on average, went below tracking as well with a $40.2 million aggregate. It's a tough one considering this film has been met with some silly controversy, but this could end up being a much bigger hit than expected if the religious-based audiences turn out in droves. Laremy continues to predict The Grand Budapest Hotel as it expands into 977 theaters where he expects it will gross as much as $13 million. Readers aren't quite as bullish, predicting an average of $11.1 million, but no matter the result this one is shaping up to be big for Anderson and one I'm predicting, right now, for a Best Picture nomination. »
- Brad Brevet
Boasting an all-star cast, a patina of prestige and a wide release, there’s no doubt that the epic will open in first place. But coming on the heels of last weekend’s surprise success story God’s Not Dead, the Christian film that opened in fourth place at $9.2 million from just 780 screens, the question of the weekend is whether faith-based audiences will turn out to see just what Aronofsky has done with the story.
This weekend also provides a lot of interesting fodder to analyze, »
- Lindsey Bahr
The day of reckoning is nigh for Paramount’s Biblical tentpole “Noah,” which looks to ride a wave of recent controversy and solid overseas grosses into Stateside plexes, projected to open at around $40 million in three days.
Internationally, though, Disney will steal headlines, kick-starting it’s roll out for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in 32 territories, including Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, South Korea and the U.K. The Mouse opens the pic in China and Russia next weekend day-and-date with the U.S.
The Darren Aronofsky-directed “Noah,” which has drawn heat from religious groups over some of the liberties taken with the source material, already has seen sizable debuts in certain international territories, including Mexico and South Korea. In Australia, “Noah” commanded more than half of the local marketshare on opening day, with results 20% greater than “Gravity” locally.
- Andrew Stewart
Noah is your clear box-office winner this weekend, on that front we can all agree. But above trackingc Or in line withc Hard to say. It's being marketed as if it's Wrath of the Titans, which clearly can't be accurate given Darren Aronofsky directed. In terms of quality, you can see some brilliance, but also plenty of studio interference as well. I think. Regardless, this will be an epic CinemaScore, either an A or B-, I just can't tell which. As for a prediction, I'm going slightly under tracking at $37.4 million. After losing to the wisdom of crowds by a paltry $200,000 on Divergent I'm ready for some fresh pain again this weekend. Let's do religious themed round #2 with God's Not Dead. The easy comparison here is Son of God, which came out of the gates crushing it before facing a withering 60 percent dip in its sophomore weekend. It would seem that Ya, »
- Laremy Legel
The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya? “How Heathers changed teen movies forever” — Hyperbole aside, Daniel Bettridge at The Week makes a great case for a cult flop altering the landscape toward aggressive honesty in youth storytelling. It’s a vision without the sixteen candles, but the ultimate question is whether the little-seen gem made a large impact or was simply part of a much bigger, inevitable movement. “Are you ready for a wraparound movie screen?” — Noel Murray at The Dissolve asks the question that Barco hopes you’ll be enthusiastically nodding your head in response to. The company unveiled its Escape System at CinemaCon, and they’re hoping that fans will love being literally surrounded by visuals. A brand new kind of gimmicky movie screen. It’s a gamble — one that feels far better suited for experiential journeys (Koyaanisqatsi »
- Scott Beggs
Paul Risker on the cinema of Wes Anderson...
Known for brandishing his pen and camera to create a quirky brand of cinema, with the check-in date upon us for the whimsical delights of his eighth feature film The Grand Budapest Hotel, the imaginative auteur Wes Anderson looks to bring his cinema full circle.
From Royal Tenenbaums to Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has compiled a collection of whimsical family dramas. Habitually creating films that are of the opinion that cinematic realism is a fabrication; Anderson’s cinema echoes the infamous words of Jean-Luc Godard: “Film is 24 lies a second.” Affording his films trademark honesty the self-conscious and whimsical language defines him as one of American cinemas leading auteurs.
Creating his cinematic worlds with an independent logic to those of his contemporaries, Anderson is not following tradition by asking us to suspend our belief. By openly acknowledging the lie of cinema, his »
- Gary Collinson
How the David vs. Goliath battle between the big-budget Biblical saga “Noah” and the surprise indie hit “God's Not Dead” will pan out is just one of several intriguing questions to be answered at the box office this weekend. How front-loaded will “Divergent” be? Can “The Grand Budapest Hotel” keep its momentum as it goes wide? Will Arnold Schwarzenegger's “Sabotage” break his post-politics losing streak? Will Hispanics turn out for “Cesar Chavez”? And can Justin Bateman's R-rated dark comedy about a spelling bee crack the top ten? Let's get to the answers. “Noah” is going to beat “God's Not Dead” So say the analysts, »
- Todd Cunningham
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s eighth feature film and one of his best, chronicles the bittersweet adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel in a fictional country between wars, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy who became his loyal and devoted friend. A timeless tale of friendship and honor as well as a kinetic caper in constant motion, the film features an impressive ensemble cast that includes F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson and Owen Wilson. At the film’s recent press day in Los Angeles, Anderson and production designer Adam Stockhausen spoke about how the project first emerged, their collaboration on the vision for the film, how they created a lush cinematic world to invite the audience into, Viennese »
- Sheila Roberts
UK box office top ten and analysis for the weekend of Friday 21st - Sunday 23rd March 2014....
In its third week of release, Wes Anderson's star-studded comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel has climbed to the top of the UK box office chart, pulling in £1.27 million over the Friday to Sunday period to give the film an impressive £6.3 million to date.
Elsewhere in the chart, three newcomers managed to crack the top ten, with the British prison drama Starred Up debuting in sixth with £495,181, followed by the Nick Hornby adaptation A Long Way Down in seventh with £361,901 and the Jason Reitman drama Labor Day in eighth with £278,726.
Number one this time last year: The Croods
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel - £1,267,408 weekend (3 weeks)
2. Need for Speed - £988,255 weekend (2 weeks)
3. The Lego Movie - £815,020 weekend (6 weeks)
4. 300: Rise of an Empire - £785,538 weekend (3 weeks)
5. Non-Stop - £697,128 weekend (4 weeks)
6. Starred Up - £495,181 weekend »
- Gary Collinson
Wes Anderson enjoys first UK No 1 as takings look set to eclipse his Fantastic Mr Fox
When it debuted in third place with £1.53m from 284 cinemas, Grand Budapest Hotel always looked on course to become Wes Anderson's biggest live-action film at UK cinemas, displacing The Royal Tenenbaums (£3.33m lifetime). A week later, with an expansion to 372 venues, the film found itself in second place in the UK box office chart. And now, in its third week of release, the Middle European caper grabs the top spot, dethroning video-game adaptation Need for Speed. With third-weekend takings of £1.27m from 458 sites, Grand Budapest Hotel has earned £6.31m in just 17 days. The film has a real shot at overtaking Anderson's animated family flick Fantastic Mr Fox (£9.19m) to become his biggest-ever UK hit.
It's not unprecedented for a film to rise slowly to the top of the box office chart, »
- Charles Gant
New Ya franchise tries to escape Hunger Games shadow, the Muppets come in a gloomy second, while Wes Anderson is on track for a career best
Divergent storms to the top
The latest wannabe Ya (young adult) franchise from Lionsgate has got off to a fairly good start with the $56m estimated weekend haul. It was never going to beat the $152.5m first weekend of The Hunger Games back in March 2012, which is the obvious, if unfair, comparison. Even Divergent's producer Lucy Fisher hinted at this in my recent interview with her on Screen Daily. Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games books have sold loads more than Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy, while Jennifer Lawrence had a wider exposure heading into The Hunger Games than rising star Shailene Woodley did before the weekend. Fisher even went as far as to say the movies were dissimilar, but that's not true: both »
- Jeremy Kay
Filmmaker Wes Anderson has never been shy about using a very, very specific visual style in his movies — so much so that his work has practically become a genre unto itself and ripe for affectionate parody. His latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, takes that "Wes World" sensibility to beautiful extremes, crafting an imaginary 20th-century Europe in eye-popping pastels and meticulous art-deco sets. And in this exclusive featurette, you'll get to see exactly how Anderson and his team created the hit film's distinctive design down to the last detail.
Wes World: »
Wes Anderson's latest film has been a slow-burn success in UK cinemas, claiming first place on its fourth weekend on release with a box office haul of £1.2 million.
With a running total of £6.3 million, the Ralph Fiennes-led film is closing in on the £8.7 million earned by Anderson's most financially successful UK release to-date, 2009's Fantastic Mr Fox.
The UK box office top ten in full:
1. (2) The Grand Budapest Hotel - £1,267,408
2. (1) Need for Speed - £988,255
3. (4) The Lego Movie - »
Liar’s Dice, which began its festival journey of 2014 with its international premiere at Sundance Film Festival, also won the Special Jury award at Sophia International Film Festival in Bulgaria recently.
Qissa is also scheduled to screen at the upcoming Taipei Golden Horse Fantastic Film Festival.
Both the films will be screened in New Visions section of the festival, which presents works of young directors who received critical acclaim with their debut or second features.
The Istanbul Film Festival will open with Stephan Frears’ Philomena and will take place from 5-20 April.
Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman and Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, which was banned by the Turkish film rating commission in early March, will also be screened at the festival. »
Fast & Furious 7 fans, here’s the latest on the production:
For years, folks have said that computers were going to replace us. And they may be right. Especially at the cinema. With the technological advances in CG face-mapping, complex voice-replicating software, and motion capture…we may soon find ourselves in a cinematic landscape where actors can be replicated by digital counterparts. Such is the case with Paul Walker and Fast & Furious 7. According to a source for THR, the sixth sequel to The Fast and The Furious may have found its answer to “How do you solve a problem like Paul Walker dying mid-production?”
“They have hired four actors with bodies very similar to Paul’s physique and they will be used for movement and as a base. Paul’s face and voice will be used on top using CGI,” says the unnamed source who works within the Fast & Furious 7 production. »
- Mario-Francisco Robles
The actuals are in and Divergent dipped $1.4 million below estimates for a three-day total of $54.6 million. I broke down the demos and compared the film's opening to the likes of Twilight and The Hunger Games yesterday so click here for that, no need to repeat it here. In second is Muppets Most Wanted, which underperformed to such an extent the closest prediction from the readers was HazardousKirby, who was $1.5 million over the film's eventual $17 million finish. While it wasn't one of the films on the prediction board (primarily because we weren't even aware of its existence), I can't ignore God's Not Dead, which was estimated at $8.5 million yesterday morning, but actually brought in $700,000 more for a total of $9.2 million from only 780 theaters over the weekend, moving it into fourth place for the weekend with a $11,852 per theater average. Impressive. Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel stayed pretty much right where it was yesterday, »
- Brad Brevet
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