The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou


Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Death Spa The hottest health spa in in town uses a state-of-the-art computer to help its clientele get the most out of their workouts, but the business is threatened when people start dying on the premises in wonderfully gory ways. Well, it would be threatened if the customers cared more about their safety than they do their bodies. It seems the owner’s wife, a woman who burned to death under mysterious circumstances, has returned for some supernatural vengeance. I won’t pretend that this late ’80s horror flick is a “good” movie per se, but there’s definitely a lot to enjoy here from the bloody gore effects to the decade-glorifying production design to its unabashed love of nudity to dialogue that delivers unintentional laughs. It’s a fun little movie that also earns points for finding a different angle on the haunted house tale. Gorgon Video’s new Blu-ray offers a solid HD transfer alongside new and entertaining extras, and while it’s not the best new release this week (and it’s more than a little over-priced) it’s a joy to finally see this somewhat forgotten gem find new life. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, trailer]


Grand Budapest Hotel Cast

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel is his most ambitious film to date. Filled with locations, costumes, and set pieces, there is quite a bit going on in almost every frame including some well-crafted action. Anderson has proved himself as a capable action director over the past few years, what with the chases in The Fantastic Mr. Fox and, of course, Steve Zissou’s toe-to-toe battle with pirates. While Paramount may not be calling him to helm the next Transformers – not yet, anyway — he continues to show a real knack for action. Even though The Grand Budapest Hotel has a relentless pace, it’s still a character-driven story for Wes Anderson. It’s kind of a buddy comedy, following Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), as they try to prove Gustave’s innocence in a murder case. That synopsis is reductive, but it’s the main focus of the story, which Anderson worked on with his buddy Hugo Guinness. Anderson has collaborated with other screenwriters on all his films, from Owen Wilson to Noah Baumbach to Roman Coppola, but this is his first solo credit. Our discussion with Anderson began with his penchant for not writing alone. Here’s what he had to say about his process, from his scripts to making commercials, at SXSW:



It’s silly to think that the outcome of Sunday’s Academy Awards is going to somehow change anything about the films nominated, just like it is silly to get any kinds of worked up about it unless you yourself happen to be up for an award. Really, the fun of the Oscars is watching all those unquenchable egos sitting under one roof, patting each other on the back in the form of golden naked men. So in the honor of emotional extremity, let us look back on the greater award show moments in films – some of which portraying the very ceremony they hope to be a part of.


Rushmore Criterion

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.


Wes Anderson

Oh, Wes Anderson. Some have already gotten to see his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, and even more will see it as it opens wider this weekend. Without seeing his name on the title cards, it’s easy to spot as one of his projects. The auteur has developed a look and feel all his own – usually constructed by primary colors, detailed set design, Britpop, and Bill Murray. This Texan who often lives in France is idiosyncratic in his storytelling, but he’s also unafraid to put his personal demons onto the screen (in as twee a way as possible). From Bottle Rocket to Rushmore to Fantastic Mr. Fox, his work is usually ridiculously rich and infinitely quotable. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the son of an advertiser and an archeologist.


The Royal Tenenbaums

Part of me is in complete disbelief that the release date of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums will have been a decade ago next month. It doesn’t feel so long ago that I was sixteen years old, seeing it for the first time in a movie theater and spending my subsequent Christmas with The Ramones, Elliot Smith, and Nico playing on repeat in my car (two years later, after hearing of Smith’s death, my friends and I gathered together and watched Richie Tenenbaums’s (Luke Wilson) attempted suicide with new, disturbing poignancy). And ten years on, even after having seen it at least a dozen times, and armed with the annoying ability to know every beat and predict every line, something about Tenenbaums feels ageless and fresh at the same time. But when you look at the movie culture that came after Tenenbaums, the film’s age begins to take on its inevitable weight. Tenenbaums was Anderson’s first (and arguably only) real financial success. Previously, Anderson was perceived as an overlooked critical darling following Rushmore, a promising director that a great deal of Hollywood talent wanted to work with (which explains Tenenbaums’ excellent cast and, probably, its corresponding financial success). With this degree of mass exposure, other filmmakers followed suit, establishing what has since been known as the “Wes Anderson style,” which permeated critical and casual assessment of mainstream indies for the following decade and established a visual approach that’s been echoed in anything from Napoleon Dynamite to Garden State to less […]


The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Because Life Aquatic is a great inspiration for an animated adventure. This short features some playful animation, a clever idea, and a clear homage to the work of professional fish hunter named Steve Zissou. It’s got touches of Miyazaki as well, and it’s all handled brilliantly. A young boy living under the sea watches his robot friend fall asleep, so he heads out into the open ocean to get the light bulbs needed for power from an unlikely source. They run into danger, enjoy the beauty around them, and do it all set to music that sounds strikingly like a certain Mark Mothersbaugh’s score. Regardless of the close referencing, this film is a smile factory. What does it cost? Just 4 minute of your time. Check out Playing With Light for yourself:



The recent cinema of Wes Anderson and his occasional creative collaborator Noah Baumbach have encountered an interesting play with the ever-blurry line that retains an audience’s empathy for an unlikeable protagonist. This week, the Culture Warrior puts those protagonists in focus.



If you’re like me, you’ve been glued to Discovery Channel all week checking out all the fantastic shark action. If you need a break though, yet demand more sharks, here are a few films that should keep you from heading to the ocean (or to the deep end of the pool) for a while.



After buying these…you are just one red beenie away from being that much closer to Bill Murray.

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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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