Friday, March 13, 2015

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and the DVDs "Foxcatcher," "My Old Lady" and "The Longest Week."  The Book of the Week is a true crime opus, "Crane: Sex, Celebrity and my Father's Unsolved Murder," the story of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane's murder written by his son.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Conformist," a film that inspired Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.]

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Everyone is right where we left them in 2012 at "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
This sequel to 2012's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" brings back most of the usual suspects who had moved to India for a cheap retirement, not realizing they were moving to a crumbling ruin run by young Sonny Kapour (Dev Patel). Despite their initial disappointment, they all bonded and decided they were right where they wanted to be (if you haven't seen the first film, you might want to.  It will make this one more enjoyable).
This time around the centerpiece of the film is the marriage of Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) and Sonny's desire to acquire another hotel.
Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) are "not together but together," according to Evelyn; Norman (Ronald Pickup) still has a wandering eye and fancies himself a lothario but he and Carol (Diana Hardcastle) are still together; Madge (Celia Imrie) is still looking for a husband and now has two suitors; and Muriel (Maggie Smith) is still on her own co-managing the hotel with Sonny and helping him acquire The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The film opens with Muriel and Sonny heading down Route 66 in a Mustang to meet with the head of the Evergreen Group (David Strathairn) in the United States to get the funds to buy the second hotel.  They are warned that an inspector will soon be coming to see the hotel. When they get back to Jaipur, two new guests arrive, Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) and Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Grieg).  Sonny immediately assumes Guy is "the guy" coming to inspect.  Is it a case of mistaken identity?
There are the usual twists and turns that are de rigeur in romantic comedies: Jean (Penelope Wilton) returns.  How will that affect Evelyn and Douglas, who so far have a very tentative courtship?  Who will Madge set her sights on?  Is Carol really cheating on Norman? Will Guy and Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey) get together?  Who is the hotel inspector and will Sonny get his new hotel?
Anglophiles will love seeing all of these actors so familiar from British TV and films (two are from "Downton Abbey!") all in one place and trading quips and bon mots. 
Speaking of which, Maggie Smith displays a bit of Downton Abbey's Dowager here, but we will excuse her because irrasible "I don't tolerate any nonsense" characters are her forte and no matter what she does, she lights up the screen (see the review below for "My Old Lady"). Too bad she and Penelope Wilton (Isabel on "Downton") didn't get to trade insults here, though Wilton did get to utter the line “I couldn’t resist the chance to come back and visit the old crumbling ruins. And see how the hotel was doing as well.” 
Judi Dench is another one who never disappoints and plays nervous like no one else.  Bill Nighy is endearing, hiring a young kid to read into a device in his ear so he can remember the patter when he does his tour guide job ("First the knees go, then the words," he says).  Celia Imrie has that twinkle in her eyes and in her smile and what can I say, Richard Gere is still hot.  And if you like Bollywood dancing, it's got that too.
My one reservation is the obsequious side of Sonny, which I find to be a cringe-worthy stereotype and just plain annoying at times.
Will there be "The Third Exotic Marigold Hotel?"  This one certainly left some room for that.  Let's hope so.
This probably won't win any Best Picture Awards and in fact, the critics have not been kind, saying it didn't live up to the first one and there wasn't much of a plot. I am also not much of a fan of sequels, but people, especially those of a certain age, don't go to movies like this to be critics. They go to feel good, to feel happy, to just feel. The people in the audience when I saw the film seemed to be feeling good and having a great time. And seeing these veteran actors doing their thing in an exotic location will do the same for you.
Director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker (who also wrote the first one) reminds us that feelings of love, jealousy, betrayal, disappointment, longing and romance are not reserved for the young. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...finally, a movie for grownups.  No aliens, no serial killers, no teenage angst, just fabulous actors of a certain age, all having a jolly good time.  And you will too.

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)

Foxcatcher (2014)

The film version of the true life tragic relationship between two brothers who were Olympic Gold Medal wrestlers and the billionaire John E. DuPont.

NOTE:  If you don't know this true story, possible spoilers (though knowing the story will not ruin your enjoyment of the film).

Dupont was a spoiled rich kid with visions of grandeur who wanted desperately to be an athlete, but he wasn't good at anything.  Even all of the money in the world can't make you an Olympian if you don't have the gifts.  He took a turn as a Biathlete, but eventurally settled on coaching wrestling.  He was also mentally ill and in that case, money did help him with that. Lots of money can be a great cover-up. But why wrestling?  Never explained.  Likewise, the tragic ending.

DuPont seized on Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), an Olympic Gold Medal winner in wrestling, who was floundering after his Olympic win. Mark is depicted as being alone, antisocial, detached and uncommunicative.  So he was poised to be recruited by DuPont who offered him a place to train for the World Championships and then gave him a team to coach.  But that wasn't enough.  DuPont wanted Mark's older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), who was also an Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler to get him to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.  Where Mark was closed up, withdrawn and alone, Dave was gregarious and married with children. Dave also had his own ideas about how things should go and when DuPont demoted Mark and gave the team over to Dave, Mark couldn't handle it.

Did the shooting happen because DuPont was in love with Mark and blamed Dave for Mark leaving?  We will never know.  Dupont died in prison with the ignominious title of being the richest man ever to go to prison.

Steve Carell did an amazing job of not being Steve Carell.  His fake nose notwithstanding, none of his comedic mannerisms were in evidence here. Carell did a wonderful job portraying the eccentric DuPont, with awkward stares and long pauses so it's no wonder he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.  One wonders, though, why Tatum was not acknowledged. Tatum embraced the role of Mark and Mark's closed off world. His and Carrell's performances were the highlights of this film.  On the other hand, not sure why Mark Ruffalo got a Best Supporting Actor nod.  Vanessa Redgrave played DuPont's disapproving mother in a small, but regal role.

Directed by Bennett Miller, who directed the fabulous "Moneyball" and the wonderful character study "Capote," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, and with a script script by Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, the film captures the eerie quality of this strange, strange story and the acting is superb, but the film drags at times.  It would have been tighter at 90 minutes.

I see why this film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hair: Steve Carell and Channing Tatum were almost unrecognizable.

One can't help but compare this film with the book by Mark Schultz which I reviewed in January.  The book explained things a bit better, especially the relationship between Mark and Dave.  But as for why the story ended as it did, Mark didn't really understand what happened either. 

Rosy the Reviewer ultimately unsatisfying story with wonderfully satisfying performances.

My Old Lady (2014)

Matthias Gold (Kevin Kline) has inherited a Paris apartment from his father only to discover it's not the windfall he had expected.

Matthias is almost 60 and when his father dies, he leaves Matthias an apartment in Paris and a watch.  Matthias hasn't done much with his life so this seems like a good thing.  He sells what little he has and moves to Paris only to discover that his apartment is a viager which is similar to our reverse mortgage in the U.S. except in France, it's a private contract where the buyer agrees to pay a monthly sum to the seller for as long as the seller lives with the idea that if the seller dies soon, it's a great deal.  But the low price reflects what a gamble it is if the person lives too long.

So Matthias arrives at the aforementioned apartment only to discover he has not only inherited the apartment, he has inherited the viager AND Madame Girard (Maggie Smith) who as per the contract can live there until she dies. HE owes HER 2400 euros per month until that happens. The good news is Madame Girard is 90; the bad news is her daughter, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas) also lives there and she will be damned if she is going to go quietly, even when her mother dies.  Fortunately for Matthias, Madame Girard lets him stay in the apartment.  She has her reasons which you can probably figure out as Matthias slowly pieces together his father's double life.  Chloe and Matthias hate each other on sight so, if you know much about movie clichés, you can probably figure out how that's going to turn out as well.

This was originally a play written by Israel Horovitz who has adapted it for the screen and directed.  You can tell it was originally a play because this film is very talkie.  However, I give it props for its story of mature adults.

Maggie Smith is great as usual - it's her movie - and she manages to avoid her Dowager mannerisms from "Downton Abbey."  Kristin Scott Thomas is also good but one wonders why she doesn't use a French accent here. Her screen mother was born in England but she was supposedly born in France so why doesn't she have a French accent especially since we know she is fluent in French in real life?  Then there is Kevin Kline.  I am usually a fan but he was over-acting like mad here.

So I have good news and bad news.

The good news:  Paris exteriors, Maggie Smith and an interesting idea that caters to the older crowd - Think "Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (see review above)."

The Bad news: Everything else.

Rosy the Reviewer do you say "predictable" in French? But if you are a Maggie Smith fan, it's worth a look.

The Longest Week (2014)

Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman) is almost 40.  He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and lives a rich, though slightly dissolute life.  But when his parents decide to divorce, neither one wants to fund his lifestyle and he finds himself broke and out on the street.

While Conrad is riding the subway (horrors!) he sees a beautiful girl and she gives him her phone number.  He is instantly smitten.   Later, as in 13 minutes into this film, Conrad's best friend, Dylan (Billy Crudup) tells him about a girl named Beatrice (Olivia Wilde) who he likes -- guess what happens next?  I'm certainly not giving anything away by saying the rest of the film is all about who will get the girl. Hopeless romantic vs. romantically hopeless.  Let's just say Conrad's and Dylan's friendship is tested.

Written and directed by Peter Glanz, this film seems to want to be a Woody Allen film, right down to the New York setting, the jazz score and the feckless leading man, but it doesn't have the sharp Woody Allen dialogue and the Woody Allen laughs.  But if Woody Allen made a French film, this might be it and that's not necessarily a compliment.

Jason Bateman has made an adult career out of playing crabby jaded types ("Bad Words)."  Billy Crudup, who plays Dylan, has starred in some big movies, is a good actor and is a very handsome guy so one wonders why he has not hit the stratosphere of stardom like Tom Cruise or Bradley Cooper.  Olivia Wilde is a very appealing actress and actually seems like a Woody Allen muse. However, it bugged me that she wore fake eyelashes for the entire film even when she went to bed.  Jenny Slate who made her mark in "Obvious Child," is toned down here as Beatrice's sidekick. 

I like Jason Bateman, I like Billy Crudup, I like Olivia Wilde and I like Jenny Slate, so why didn't I like this film?

Rosy the Reviewer says...the movie is less than 90 minutes long but it felt like the longest week.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

272 to go!
Have YOU seen this one?

Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) embraces Mussolini's Fascist government.  When he joins the secret police he is tapped to go abroad to kill his old college professor who is now a leader in the antifascist movement.

Directed by famed director Bernardo Bertolucci who later brought us "Last Tango in Paris," "1900," "The Sheltering Sky" and "The Last Emperor," among other stellar films, here is an early film of extraordinary style and depth.  I couldn't help but think of "The Godfather" films watching this one and, indeed, Francis Ford Coppola as well as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg have cited this film as a major influence and watching it, I could definitely see the influences.

Why it's a Must See:  "Bertolucci's film couldn't be more conspicuously immodest in its audacious use of style...Even more impressive is Vittorio Storaro's astounding cinematography...This is eye candy of the highest order, as undercover assassins and political intrigue have never looked so  stylish...[This film] is... a damning indictment of Fascist collaborators."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...Seminal and mesmerizing.  If you liked "The Godfather" films, you need to see where they came from.
(In Italian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Remember the TV show "Hogan's Heroes?" Actor Bob Crane starred but was later murdered in 1978.  This is his son's version of the story and his attempt to discover and reconcile what happened.
This story was the subject of a feature film in 2002 ("Auto Focus" starring Greg Kennear), but here is the personal take on the murder as Crane's eldest son weighs in.  Bob Crane was a wildly popular early morning radio DJ in Los Angeles when he was offered the opportunity to play the affable Colonel Hogan in what was to become the popular TV show "Hogan's Heroes."  But there was another side to Crane that no one would have guessed from his onscreen character - sex addiction - and his son pulls no punches in revealing his father's darker side. 

Crane's son, who wants to be called Robert Crane, not Bob Crane Jr. weaves his own story into his father's.  The younger Crane began writing for "Oui Magazine" and moved on to interviewing celebrities for "Playboy."  He became the personal assistant for actor John Candy.  When his father was murdered he was in his twenties and was called to identify the body.  He has been haunted by that scene and by the mystery of what really happened. Though the investigation over the years focused on a rather creepy super fan friend of Crane's and Crane's soon-to-be ex-wife the mystery remains unsolved.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Sex? Murder? Celebrity? I'm there!  But sadly, this didn't really bring it.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for
"What Rosy the Reviewer Loves 
A Rant About Fashion Mags"


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