âThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotelâ (PG-13) ****
There are movies you see in which, as soon as the opening rolls, you can relax, knowing that youâre in the hands of professionals who will not let you down. Such is the case with a whimsical yet emotional entry from noted director John Madden and an all-star British cast set in India.
âThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotelâ is set in Jaipur, a typically throbbing, colorful mĂ©lange of a city with plenty of tourist magnets and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful run by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). What Sonny lacks in management experience — he canât even find the office phone — he more than makes up for in enthusiasm and confidence that he has found lifeâs breakthrough. He wants to be accompanied by Sunaina (Tena Desae). She is from the wrong side of the tracks, and Mother does not approve. Thus we have a young love plot line accompanied by the stories of seven wonderfully appealing characters, all from England.
They have come there because of Sonnyâs Photoshopped brochure, much to their assorted confusion, wonderment, delight and resignation. Maggie Smith as Muriel, is there to get a good price on a hip replacement and gradually takes over the picture from Judi Dench as Evelyn, a recent widow. Evelynâs husband left her deep in debt so she has to find work in Jaipur, teaching cultural sensitivity to Indian phone bank operators (a neat twist). The operators happen to include Sunaina, which makes Denchâs role in smoothing the path for young love logical as well as sympathetic. Bill Nighy (Douglas) is saddled with a harridan of a wife, Jean (Penelope Wilton of âDownton Abbeyâ) who wants nothing more than to âturn leftâ into First Class on the first plane back to England. Nighyâs resolute curiosity and kindness to everybody is in such stark contrast to his wifeâs acid that her departure is a relief. Tom Wilkinson as Graham, the judge, has the most complex part as he has lived in Jaipur 40 years before, when he fell in love. He is back to find his old lover.
Other players who stand out equally include Ronald Pickup as the eternally romantic loser, Norman, and Celia Imrie, his romantically-oriented, not to say horny, co-retiree, Madge. While she scouts local clubs for single men, Norman does the same for single women until he meets Carol (Diana Hardcastle, Mrs. Tom Wilkinson in real life).
I said this is a comedy, and it had an audience of mostly seniors roaring with laughter. I suspect it might not get as many guffaws with a younger audience, but thatâs their problem. They would do well to see this film to get a glimpse of what both graceful and ugly senior living can be.
Laugh, you will, but keep the handkerchief close as there are moments of great emotional impact in the film. Though this will receive high marks from AARP, take the kids. They will be old soon enough and their parents will even sooner. It never hurts to find out how the other half lives.
âWhat to Expect When Youâre Expectingâ (PG-13) ***
First thing, just eliminate the Cameron Diaz role. That helps get rid of an annoying character and cut down on the confusion in one whack. Diaz cannot seem to avoid overplaying everything sheâs in recently and nearly stops this messy film in its tracks as a weight-loss villainess from reality TV.
That being said and done, what is left is a possibly relaxing film except for the sloppiness of the script and direction. At its best, it is a fine summer romantic comedy about disparate couples who are all expecting in one way or another: regular, surrogacy attempts, twins and adoption.
In fact, one of the most touching performances, by Anna Kendrick as Rosie, ends up with no pregnancy at all. Another, a sensitive and powerful portrayal of maternal frustration, is by Jennifer Lopez as Holly. The males are given little to work on other than being inept, as they are supposed to be, led by Ben Falcone as Gary Cooper, so named by his competitive father, played by Denis Quaid. Quaid has the enviable task of playing Brooklyn Deckerâs husband, giving rise to lots of May-December jokes, but Quaidâs bailout from a lifetime of being a real jerk of a father is almost too saccharine for tolerance.
Skyler (Decker) does pull off the funniest delivery of them all — all of the females deliver on the same day, of course — when she sneezes and pops one of her twins out while Elizabeth Banks, terrific as Wendy, a pregnancy expert, is having a C-section and Diaz is struggling mightily. She could suffer no other way.
The problem with this movie is n overall unevenness of tone and pace. When it is funny, such as in Wendyâs admission that pregnancy sucks, it is very funny. Anna Kendrick is superb as a chef with a food wagon competing with and falling for Marco (Chace Crawford), and their scenes are nicely timed and even moving. A comic turn of side-splitting substance is turned in by Aussie Rebel Wilson, who starred as the British sister who was Kristen Wiigâs roommate in âBridesmaids.â She is joined by the real-life husband of Melissa McCarthy, the federal air marshal in âBridesmaids,â Falcone, who plays Gary Cooper.
Other members of the cast add wise lines in warning to prospective fathers such as: âJump on a moving train and try not to die,â and âThis is where happiness goes to die.â Unfortunately, this is one of those lines that doesnât belong since most of the dads are perfectly happy to be dads. Thatâs largely the point of the movie.
The most sympathetic character? Jordan, Chris Rockâs son, who gets tangled in soccer nets, falls down stairs and generally attracts disaster wherever he goes. He has no lines, but gets more than his share of laughs. There are more actors to mention, but thatâs the point: There are too many. Because of that, there is little time for depth in any of the situations save that of Lopez and Kendrick. Itâs a shame because the funny moments are often very funny but there is a feeling that we have to hurry to get to the next bit. And cutting Cameron Diaz would have improved the movie by a huge fraction. Or did I say that already?
âBattleshipâ (PG-13) **
I recently agreed, as a condition of his visit, to watch all three âTransformerâ movies with my grandson from Australia. Heâs 4, and he would love âBattleship.â He might also get confused, wondering how Transformers got so wet.
As you might expect, this is a totally ridiculous film filled with coincidences, nonsense, illogic and special effects. The latter is the prime reason the script is so nonsensical. The writers would have you believe that a screw-up can get off the streets, join the Navy to attract the admiralâs daughter (even though sheâs Brooklyn Decker, hardly a reason to go to sea) and become the man who saves the world, as he so humbly refers to what he is allowed to do by the writers.
Stone (Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd) joins his brother, Alex (Taylor Kitsch), under Alexâs command, but he screws up just as he had on land. In fact, one of the problems with Stone as a character is that he is mean, stupid, obstreperous and selfish and thoroughly unlikeable, so much so that even the Japanese officer who beats him in soccer, Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), canât stand him. Brooklyn Decker, as Samantha Shane, does, and thatâs all that matters. Stone is so weak that he canât bring himself to ask her father (Liam Neeson) for her hand, a peculiar inability since he gets in the grill of everybody else he faces.
That becomes merely a minor aspect of a totally preposterous plot, fueled by the aforementioned special effects that feature giant alien ships that rise from the sea and fire either canisters that implant themselves in the superstructure of the enemy or giant saw-wheels that mow down everything in their path. Fortunately, the missiles and wheels and the aliens who follow them can be killed.
Once this fact is ascertained, the U.S. Navy, with the help of Nagata, the Japanese officer, starts a gigantic and climactic game of âBattleshipâ (the tie-in with Hasbro is made clear at the start) until a totally unbelievable fantasy of having American veterans from other wars crank up the battleship USS Missouri to fight the ultimate battle. That the Missouri is now a museum doesnât stop the producers from using it and pretending that, with a touch of fuel and twist of the old starter motor, it can go to sea in an instant and fire 70-year old munitions at an alien spacecraft or three. Illogical, inane and inexplicable, it wonât matter to the intended viewers of this movie who probably donât even know which war was fought 70 years ago. That they donât ask questions to challenge such tripe is sad since it allows stuff like this to continue to be made.
At least the vets, whom one assumed were real vets cast by the producers (the film was greatly assisted in production by the U.S. Navy), got a check out of it.
âMen in Black IIIâ (PG-13) **
Several times, from several characters in âMen in Black III,â emerges one admonition: âDonât ask a question you donât want to know the answer to.â I have a question for you: âIs âMen in Black IIIâ worth going to?â Donât ask. Will Smith, âJâ and Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, âK,â take us through almost two hours of time travel and a few gimmicks other than time travel, and youâd do better to stay serenely at home in the 21st Century.
What was charming and funny in previous manifestations of this franchise, seems worn out and ancient here. (Critic avoids Tommy Lee Jones snark here.) Jemaine Clement of the Conchords from New Zealand gets to do a star turn as the maimed villain, Boris the Animal, and Bill Hader is amusing as Andy Warhol; Emma Thompson looks great; and Michael Stuhlbarg is winsome as Griffin, an alien with predictive powers. Out other than those few, this is unfortunately a forgettable mess of a movie.
Part of it is the premise: Will Smith goes back to 1969 to save K from being killed by Boris, who is angry because K is putting up a shield to protect the earth from aliens. K, in 1969, took off Borisâs left arm and Boris has been imprisoned on the moon at âLuna Max,â an ultimate maximum security prison from which he escapes. That allows the writers to indulge the usual 1969 iconic moments: the Mets win the pennant, the moon landing is launched and Andy Warhol is in vogue. Who knew that he was a Man in Black, however?
There is one clever gimmick from the future: a concept motorcycle that is literally one wheel inside of which the agent rides at warp speeds. Great idea for urban travel, even if there is no room for a seatbelt. This series has always been drolly enjoyable and the chemistry between Smith and Jones rewarding, but this time out they seem as dry as the dunes of Cape Canaveral. One hopes all involved will let us live with the memories of the good films in the series, MIB I and II.
Enjoy more of Mikeâs movie reviews at www.towncourier.com.