Tag Archives: Jeff Goldblum

Odd ‘n’ Mod

Johnny Depp’s time-warped, Brit-flavored box office bomb

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Mortdecai

Starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow & Ewan McGregor

Directed by David Koepp

R

Well, at least Johnny Depp’s latest movie has something in common with The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life: All three of those films, like his new flop, were initially box-office bombs.

Those flicks much later found respect and beloved places in cinematic history. Perhaps some new appreciation may also be heaped, decades down the road, on Mortdecai. But so far Depp’s dud has been savaged by most critics and has only attracted a trickle of audience turnout. Not many people have wanted to see him, apparently, in yet another nutty role, with a fake accent and goofball mannerisms—and particularly not in this movie, which is a bit of an oddity itself.

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Paul Bettany plays the loyal manservant of kooky art dealer Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp).

Based on a series of musty 1970s British comedic cloak-and-dagger novels, Mortdecai stars Depp as the eccentric art wheeler-dealer of the title, Gwyneth Paltrow as his wife, and Ewan McGregor as a MI5 agent on the trail of a missing art masterpiece that may contain a long-hidden code leading to squirreled-away Nazi gold. Eventually everybody gets in on the action, including Mortdecai’s loyal manservant (Paul Bettany), a competing American art collector (Jeff Goldblum), his nymphomaniac daughter (Olivia Munn), and some nasty Russian thugs.

The whole story seems kookily out of time, a far-out, swingin’-’70s romp plunked down clumsily in the present. Or is it a mod, mapcap comedy run backward through the gears of a time-machine blender? Or a weird parcel from a distant era yet to come, when Depp’s off-kilter-characters are worshipped as idols by a future civilization?

The humor, the jokes, the mannerisms, everything about it is so pseudo-sophisticated British, so Pink Panther-meets-Austin Powers-meets-Mr. Bean, so camp-ily, willfully, woozily derivative of practically every English sleuth saga and spoofy bungle caper that’s ever been done, it begs the question: Why did anyone bother to make this curious, out-of-time artifact of a movie at all, and why now?

Depp, who has fashioned quite a career out of quirk, adds yet another peculiar personality to his collection. Charlie Mortdecai, a wacky conglomeration of grunts, bleats, facial tics and a moustache that becomes one of the movie’s subplots by itself, is a hoot, but dimensionally hollow, and highly unlikely to join Capt. Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood or Willy Wonka in his hall of fame.

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Ewan McGregor

It’s all a tad randy, but only a tad, just barely enough for its R rating. That means anyone expecting a “raunchy” grown-up comedy, like a lot of R-rated comedies these days, will likely be disappointed at its relative tameness—and that any of Depp’s younger fans, from his Pirates of the Caribbean Disney movies, won’t be able to see it at all.

There are some funny bits, like a rather novel car chase, some clever dialogue and banter, and what seems like a total commitment from the cast, who appear to be having a cheerio, cheeky old time. But the plot is a bit of a runaround slog, and some of the gags require a good deal of stick-with-it—one involves whether a character will take a bite from a slab of stinky old cheese, or not.

Mortdecai may not be Johnny Depp’s finest moment, or even one of them. It’s not looking like it right now, anyway. But hey, let’s give this slab of stinky cheese another 30 or 40 years and see what happens, shall we?

 —Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Grand Getaway

All-star cast scrambles in quirky romp against storybook backdrop

Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Blu-ray $39.99, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

 

Director Wes Anderson’s latest quirky romp, set against the storybook-like backdrop of a once-grand Eastern European resort hotel, sends its all-star cast of F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Saoirse Ronan scrambling after a priceless stolen painting, trying to solve a puzzling murder mystery, and skittering across the snowy landscape on sleds, skis, trains, and motorcycles. Blu-ray bonus content includes several behind-the-scenes and making-of features, including an on-location guided tour with Bill Murray, who has appeared in every movie the director has ever made.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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A Great Escape

Wes Anderson’s latest romp is a quirky, colorful movie getaway

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori and Willem Dafoe

Directed by Wes Anderson

R, 100 min.

 

With director Wes Anderson, you either “get him” and his oddball characters, quirky plots and distinctive, whimsical visual style, or you don’t. A whole lot of people do, however, in his movies including The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Now The Grand Budapest Hotel offers a bustling movie getaway most Wes Anderson fans will find irresistible.

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Tony Revolori & Saoirse Ronan

A wild romp set in a 1930s Eastern European mountain resort, it features a colorful assortment of players and a story within a story within a story that keeps burrowing deeper into its own silly seriousness. As with most Anderson projects, he works with cavernous open spaces as well as delicate, meticulously detailed miniatures.

His sights, like scenes carefully colored with pastel crayons from a storybook, are often sumptuous, and his actors move, and speak, with a clockwork cadence that adds to the sense of comedic orchestration.

The plot unfolds backwards, as unspooled by the owner of the hotel (F. Murray Abraham) to one of its guests (Jude Law), relating his beginnings as the establishment’s bellboy, Zero (played by newcomer Tony Revolori in his first starring role). Zero and his mentor, the hotel’s longtime, ladies-man concierge, the ultra-dapper Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Feinnes), become friends and co-conspirators in a spiraling, sprawling misadventure that includes a murder, a missing will, a purloined painting, an outlandish prison break, and the outbreak of something that resembles World War II.

Along the way, they encounter a spectrum of characters, played by actors including many who’ve cropped up in previous Anderson movies (Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray—who’s appeared in every Wes Anderson film—Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel), as well as Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson.

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Bill Murray

Everyone seems to be having a big old time in the big old hotel, and everywhere else, and several scenes are real hoots, like the scampering prison escape—which feels like a live-action re-enactment of something from the stop-motion animation antics of The Fantastic Mr. Fox—and an extended sequence in which a secret cadre of other concierges drop everything to help one of their own out of a jam.

The story is based on a book by little-remembered Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Sweig, who was actually one of Europe’s most popular writers of the 1920s and ’30s. Anderson gives Sweig an “inspired by” credit at the end of the film.

Anderson’s detractors often think his movies are contrived, pretentious, gimmicky, too indy/arty or simply not nearly as funny as Mr. Anderson must think they are. OK, fair enough. But if you’re looking for a kooky, slightly off-kilter stopover in a place that can offer you an exhilarating, completely unique experience like nothing else at the multiplex, then I recommend you check in for a couple of free-wheeling hours—at The Grand Budapest Hotel.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

 

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