Director: Wes Anderson
American Empirical Pictures
In Theaters: 03.21

One of my favorite elements of filmmaking is being able to know who created the production just by seeing a single frame or hearing one line of dialogue. Such is the case with Wes Anderson and his marvelous style and set design. Anyone can look at any one of his peculiar films and know exactly whose brilliance was behind it. Anderson continues the streak with his latest project that is a story within a story within a story. Ralph Fiennes stars as M. Gustave, the concierge at the once luxurious Grand Budapest Hotel. The story follows Mr. Gustave as he trains the new lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), and endures a series of unfortunate events, including a murder accusation, false imprisonment and the acquisition of a priceless piece of art. Fiennes delivers an excellent performance as a pompous mentor whom you absolutely hate to love. The inclusion of Anderson regulars—albeit with minimal screen time—like Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray only enhance the director’s brush stroke. While, at times, the script can run off course and feel stagnant, the environments and set decoration easily make up for any mishaps. While it may not be Anderson’s greatest achievement, any fan of the eccentric director’s repertoire will not walk away disappointed. –Jimmy Martin

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Director: Rob Minkoff DreamWorks
In Theaters: 03.07

As Hollywood scrapes the bottom of the recycle can, they managed to snatch up an animated project based on characters from segments of the 1960s cartoon series, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. For those unaware of the bit, Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) is a super-intelligent dog who adopted a human child named Sherman (voiced by Max Charles). Together, the two explore history with their time traveling device, the WABAC (pronounced “way back”) machine. In this rendition, Sherman takes a classmate on a joyride through time, only to have chaos ensue. This is a perfect case of “never judge a movie by its trailer,” because the carefully crafted jokes and ridiculously projected puns can be enjoyed by anyone whether they have never heard of the characters or enjoyed them on television back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was President. As the duo travel to ancient Egypt, the Renaissance and the Trojan War, kids are cleverly introduced to a variety of historical figures and facts that may otherwise be ignored. It’s essentially Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure without the “69” jokes. The animation is sleek, the addition of Stephen Colbert is more than welcome, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed at a fart joke in a children’s movie. It’s the first pleasant surprise of the year. –Jimmy Martin

Need for Speed

Director: Scott Waugh
Touchstone Pictures
In Theaters: 03.14

It’s a universal instinct to believe that any film based on a video game is going to be absolute garbage. Look at the evidence: Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Hitman and Max Payne were all disasters. So, when walking into a film based on a 20-year-old racing franchise, you would obviously think it would be the same old song and dance, but such is not the case! Sure, it’s a clichéd story wrapped around an absurd assortment of events, but if you love car chases and roaring engines, director Scott Waugh offers an endless buffet of screeching tires and crumpled metal. Aaron Paul (aka Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman) moves to the big screen as Tobey Marshall, a skilled driver who was never given his shot at the big leagues. When a childhood rival turned professional racecar driver frames Tobey for murder and sends him to prison, an act of revenge is set into motion in the form of an underground race hosted by Michael Keaton (if you want a glimpse of what Keaton will be like in a proposed Beetlejuice sequel, this is it). Call it my guilty pleasure, but I become as giddy as a schoolgirl when a muscle car’s engine screams for attention. Yes, it’s dumb, but it’s dumb fun and, every once in awhile, that style can work out for the better. So, sit back, turn your brain off, eat your popcorn and enjoy the mayhem. –Jimmy Martin