Grand Piano - Magnolia - Blu-ray and DVD
Director: Eugenio Mira
Cast: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishe, Tamsin Egerton, Allen Leech. Full cast + crew
When people say something is Hitchcockian, they're usually not using the reference properly and simply describing a suspenseful thriller. Grand Piano is Hitchockian in the truer sense: It's a meticulously crafted piece of filmmaking that's wholly committed to a highly specific, somewhat outlandish premise. Elijah Wood plays a world-class pianist who takes the stage for a highly anticipated comeback performance, only to discover that if he fails to play the music precisely as it was written (a nearly impossible feat in this case), then a sniper hidden in the theater will open fire.
This is the kind of fun, brisk, inventive thriller you just don't see major Hollywood studios getting behind anymore. Yes, it's a ludicrous premise, but that's kind of the point. Take something that's a little insane and approach it from a very sane perspective and see what happens.
It also helps that Grand Piano is actually a pretty complex piece of filmmaking from a technical standpoint, which is why we highly recommend you check out the film's special features to see how this film's many, many moving pieces came together seamlessly.
Special Features: Nearly a dozen smaller videos that focus on various elements of the film, and though they're short, they're certainly worth watching because Grand Piano is a deceptively complex indie movie. In particular, the "Wayne's Shot" segment shows how one of the film's most impressive moments was put together-- and you may never have even realized it was done the way it was without this explanation.
Other Notable New Releases
Kevin Costner is having a pretty cool career resurgence right now. Unfortunately 3 Days to Kill is a bit of a footnote more than a highlight. This is Costner in Liam Neeson/Taken mode, and it's great to see him do more action than he's ever done before, but unfortunately the tone here is just a little too all over the place. It's not quite as silly as McG's other films, but it's also not as serious as the movies it's clearly trying to be like. So it's stuck in this weird mode where it mostly works, but it's just never as cool as it wants to be.
The Monuments Men is George Clooney's safe and simple telling of the true story of a platoon during WWII that were tasked with rescuing rare art from Nazi theft and destruction. It's far, far from a massive action movie, and its "we must preserve art" message is far, far from subtle, but overall it's a nice, pleasant movie with a great cast that shows a different side of war than typical rah-rah, explosion-packed WWII movies.
It's always a strange prospect with you make a rom-com about one person trying to gain the affections of someone who is already in a relationship, but Ryan Kwanten makes it work in The Right Kind of Wrong. In sticking with the surprise theme of the week, like the two movies above, it's a fine, totally acceptable kind of movie that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre, but it doesn't do enough on its own to be a staple of said genre. If you like rom-coms and Kwanten, check it out. If neither of those does it for you, move along.
And continuing the trend of perfectly acceptable but not incredible movies is Vampire Academy. There's a fun, supernatural high school vibe to this one that Mean Girls writer-director Mark Waters has put together, but it's also based on young-adult source material that's surprisingly dense with its own funky twist on vampires. If you've read the books, it'll all make much more sense, but as someone who isn't already familiar with all the various subcultures and fantasy elements at play, the whole thing feels like one giant introduction to a franchise instead of a stand-alone movie.
And lastly we have Pompeii, which I wish was more entertaining than it actually is. This is basically Gladiator fan fiction with a little bit of volcano disaster action thrown in at the end of the movie. It's not dramatic enough to be a good gladiator story, and it's not adventurous enough to be a good disaster story. Plus, the casting is all wrong. Kit Harington is not an interesting leading man. Keifer Sutherland is not a believable Roman bad guy, and so you're really only stuck rooting for a few supporting characters. It's kind of a bummer all around.
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