Geoff Cox’s DVDs: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Book Thief

Here’s a weird and wonderful crime story set in a hotel that you’ll want to revisit again and again.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 27th June 2014, 10:10 am

A starry cast in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (15: 20th Century Fox) is headed by Ralph Fiennes, who’s surprisingly funny as M Gustave, the dashing concierge at a five star establishment in Eastern Europe.

The place is being overrun by fascists in the 1930s when a wealthy old matriarch (Tilda Swinton) is murdered.

Gustave is the prime suspect, but he’s so charming that a question mark remains, even after he bounds away from Edward Norton’s policeman in a typically droll scene.

Meanwhile, Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe bring an air of foreboding as they contest Swinton’s will, which rewards Gustave for “special services”.

Tony Revolori plays Gustave’s loyal protege, Zero, although the newcomer is somewhat overshadowed by the likes of old hands Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Owen Wilson.

Writer/director Wes Anderson shows things from Zero’s point of view – as an old man telling a journalist the story of his youth as a lobby boy at the hotel – and his film successfully combines wild comedy and fairy tale magic.

> Well-acted and thoughtful drama THE BOOK THIEF (12: 20th Century Fox) opens on the eve of the Second World War in Germany.

A girl separated from her family is taken in by foster parents who help her discover the joy of reading at the same time as the rest of the locals are burning books in the town square.

She is horrified and tries to save volumes from the flames.

First World War veteran Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and his grumbling yet good-hearted spouse (Emily Watson) do their best for the new arrival, Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), although their decision to hide a Jew in the basement puts them all at risk.

While so many stories from this era have rightly explored anti-Semitism, this adaptation of an acclaimed novel instead puts the emphasis on the plight of ordinary Germans who didn’t buy into Nazi propaganda.

Director Brian Percival, best known for TV series Downton Abbey, might have milked greater tension from the scenario and it could have been more dramatically powerful, but the film still encapsulates this troubled historical period in a way which will intrigue and inform younger viewers.

> Set in modern Beijing, MAN OF TAI CHI (15: Universal) marks Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut.

He also stars in the story of the spiritual journey of a young martial artist whose unparalleled skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club. As the fights intensify, so does his will to survive.

>Two women are drugged and abducted and find themselves in a concrete bunker in horror flick RAZE (18: Koch Media).

They soon discover it’s a modern-day coliseum where they and 48 other females have been selected to fight to the death in order to save both themselves and their loved ones.

> The gang are up to their usual mischief in family comedy THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY (PG: Universal) as they try to raise the money needed to save their grandma’s bakery.

But from botched pet washes to a terrible taxi service, they fail to raise a penny and their only hope is to win prize money from the local talent show.