The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does what a sequel is supposed to do. It advances the storylines set in the first film, offers a couple of new tweaks and doesn’t try to reimagine the scenario the earlier movie delivered.

Plus, Second does not contain the high volume of old, corny jokes that were littered throughout the first Marigold.

Why do a Second? Well, 2012’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel grossed over $136 million worldwide (about a third of that in the U.S.). And there are not that many films that are targeted to older moviegoers.

In Second, the crew from the first (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are back at the hotel. After being lured from Britain to India by visions of a paradise and finding a dump in the first film, they stayed and reset their lives. The message of both films is that older people have lives, loves, dreams and libidos.

Meanwhile, hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel) has visions of adding a new hotel to his portfolio while getting ready to marry Sunaina (Tina Desai). When new guest Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) arrives for a stay at the hotel (and to provide eye candy for female moviegoers), Sonny does all he can to impress him (presuming Guy can help him fulfill his real estate ambitions).

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a bit too long. Director John Madden diagrammed several dance scenes on his telestrator and, while they add some sizzle and color, they add to the fatigue factor that sets in about three-quarters of the way through the two hour film.

I think the best reasons to see this film are Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. These two 80-year-olds (Dench is 3 weeks older) and their characters are just fun to watch. We should appreciate them while they are still alive and gracing movie screens.

Another reason: TSBEMH is a perfect film for the 70-something, 80-something or 90-something in your family. Take ’em!

 

 

 

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Philomena

Two things I wanted to do after seeing Philomena: I wanted to drink a Guinness. And I wanted to punch a nun.

Philomena (Judi Dench) is an elderly lady in the UK who has always wondered about the child she bore out of wedlock in the early 1950’s. Her memories include a fling with a boy, a pregnancy lived out in secrecy in a convent and hard labor to repay the convent for its services. The film’s true story is set in the early 2000’s, when the son would be about 50 years old.

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is an out-of-work British journalist who offers to help Philomena locate her son, in exchange for her allowing him to tell her story. He’s a jaded media type while Philomena is a generally upbeat woman, despite the lifelong pain she has suffered due to losing her son. They make an interesting duo.

Their search takes them to the convent in Ireland where only minimal information is forthcoming. Philomena flashes back to the one hour each day she was given to bond with her son. She then recalls the anguish of seeing a wealthy family take her son away for adoption when he was 3.

Eventually their quest takes them to the United States where answers are found and Philomena gets some closure. There are no spoilers in this review, but Martin’s affinity for Guinness provides a clue to the puzzle’s ultimate solution. And the nuns in the convent are presented as particularly unlikeable. (If you’ve ever encountered an unpleasant nun, maybe in school, wait til you see these women!)

The story is entertaining and offers a few surprising turns and emotional moments. Coogan, in addition to providing a strong counterpoint to Dench, co-wrote the script.

Judi Dench is excellent as usual. She is lively, energetic and occasionally funny. Her onscreen charm makes Philomena a movie for grownup audiences to enjoy and savor.

(Note: Philomena was initially rated R because it has two occurrences of the f-word. After an appeal to the MPAA, it has now been rated PG-13.)

Skyfall

“Skyfall” is the best of the James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig and one of the better Bond films of the entire 50-year series. The action, the locations and the characters are engaging from the first frame to the last.

It starts with an incredible chase scene that involves motorbikes on Istanbul rooftops and hand-to-hand combat atop a moving train. Bond is trying to grab a computer drive that contains the identities of several agents who have infiltrated terrorist gangs. He fails.

He goes to Shanghai—which looks gorgeous in an establishing shot—to get the drive and gets into more hand-to-hand combat. In a stylistic shot from director Sam Mendes, part of the battle is fought in the upper stories of a high rise, in silhouette against the night sky.

Next on the Bond “Skyfall” tour is Macau, in coastal China, near Hong Kong. Here he meets a mysterious woman who takes him to meet Raoul Silver, played with panache by a blonde-haired Javier Bardim. Silver may be the first gay Bond villain. Turns out he’s a former British agent who was captured by the Chinese and has now become a cyber terrorist.

Bond returns Silva to London but, dang it, he escapes and more bad things happen. Bond retreats to his boyhood home in Scotland. He purposely leaves a trail to lure Silva for their ultimate face off.

Among the film’s other characters and actors: The great Judi Dench as M; a new Q, a young geek of a guy, played by Ben Whishaw; Albert Finney as the gamekeeper of the Scottish estate; Ralph Fiennes as a British government official with authority over the spy agency.

There are a couple of nods to the Bond of days gone by, including the use of a classic sports car with special weaponry. And, Miss Moneypenny is back. And while we don’t hear Bond proscribe his preferred technique, we do hear him tell the bartender, “Perfect,” when his drink is poured from… a shaker.

“Skyfall” lacks a classic Bond babe but introduces an attractive, flirty woman we can hope to see in future 007 films.

Despite being a tad too long, “Skyfall” will thrill you and entertain you. If you are a Bond fan to any degree, this is a “must-see.”