Wes Anderson isn’t our greatest living filmmaker; his style is too narrowly defined for such a grand title. We tend to think of our greatest directors as both having a signature style but also being flexible enough to tackle many styles: Howard Hawks could move from urbane comedies to Westerns and epics, Martin Scorsese from urban grit to musicals and children’s’ fantasias, and so on. By contrast Anderson has one style, and each of his films simply refine it. All those twee little trinkets and fussy outfits could drive you mad, were one to watch too many in a row. But as perfectly Andersonian a spectacle as The Grand Budapest Hotel is, it also expands his reach in surprising ways. Being one of the year’s most unique spectacles, it’s also the first Anderson film made up of tragedy as much as it is comedy.
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The prospect of spending an hour and a half with an actor in a car while they sweet-talk and argue with people on the phone would normally be straight tedium, a stunt by an attention-seeking filmmaker, or an actor desperate to gain notoriety with a bit of gimmickry just as their relevance dims. But when the actor is Tom Hardy, it’s a different story. In Steven Knight’s spellbinding Locke, Hardy darts through the tense screenplay with such graceful ease that his work feels more like something lived than performed. By the time this downbeat nail-biter is done, it feels justified to finally go ahead and say that Hardy is easily one of the greatest actors of his generation. Not that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seems to have noticed; sadly, it’s likely that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science will follow suit.
Want to know the difference 20 years makes? Two decades ago, Twitter was still 12 years away, Facebook a mere ten. Taylor Swift was four. Justin Bieber had just been born. The Matrix had yet to be released, and the only success Marvel could muster was the original Fantastic Four. If you live to be 80, two decades is one fourth of your life, and if you were a new parent at the start of 1994, your kid is either in college or moved back in with you by now.
Thomas Wolfe wrote the famous book You Can’t Go Home Again way back in 1940, but its titular sentiment still applies, even today. You really can’t recapture lightning in a bottle. About the best you can do is set-up your current situation to mimic the past as closely as possible, thereby hoping that, via karma or some unspoken magic, you can once again taste the fruits of your previous labors. That was clearly the plan for the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To.
While fans of the possible franchise might feel cheated, Big Hero 6 proves that Disney did the right thing by bringing Marvel into its multi-billion dollar, multinational film fold. While concepts like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will continue to hold weight up and until the moment superheroes fall out of favor, the kid-friendly refashioning of this comic book property argues that the House of Mouse’s current creative approach has some incredible legs. Fiercely entertaining and unafraid to dabble in adult ideals, the end result rockets to the top of 2014’s array of age-appropriate titles.
It would be easy to categorize Horns as a YA take on an a standard adult horror concept. The foundation for Alexandre Aja’s film is a book by Stephen King’s kid, Joe Hill (perhaps best known for his novels, Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2), and yet all the more mature ideas and concepts have seemingly been tossed aside for a hipster love story which turns on faith, fallen angels, and the various symbolism one can carve out of horns, crosses, snakes, and fire. In fact, had Aja simply focused on these obvious allusions, and backed away a bit from the quasi-paranormal Pacific Northwest love story between our hero, Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) and his comely gal pal Merrin (Juno Temple), we’d have more terror and less Twilight.
Still, this is a good movie. Not a great one, and one lacking significant scares, but entertaining and engaging, albeit in starts and spurts. In fact, this is much more a fantasy than a typical genre offering, Aja shifting tone as readily as we’re reminded of the dreary Seattle backdrop. Our story centers on a young man named Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Merrin Williams (Temple) and for the last year or so, the police have been trying to put together a case against him. With the help of his best friend/lawyer, Lee (Max Minghella), he’s avoided prosecution, though the constant pressure from the media, and Merrin’s father (David Morse) is starting to wear on him.
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