A badly under-developed script leaves a fine cast without much to do in this sequel to the 2012 hit. Reuniting in India, the actors find moments of comedy and emotion that help make the film watchable, and the big Bollywood-style finale leaves the audience with a smile on its face. But the simplistic plot-threads never amount to much at all, which leaves the project feeling like a missed opportunity to deepen the characters and push the premise in more interesting directions.
Business at the hotel in Jaipur is booming, so managers Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) are looking for investors to expand into a second property. But this distracts Sonny from his upcoming wedding to Sunaina (Tena Desae), and she's not too happy about that. There are also two new guests (Richard Gere and Tamsin Grieg) who may be important. Meanwhile, Evelyn (Judi Dench) is offered a new job just as she realises she might like to pursue a relationship with Douglas (Bill Nighy), whose ex-wife (Penelope Wilton) turns up unexpectedly. Madge (Celia Imrie) is struggling to choose between her many suitors. And Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are having relationship issues due to their lack of communication.
All of these momentous plots, and a few more, swirl around over the course of about a week, which means that none ever has a chance to develop. It also means that the characters are all so busy with their own stories that they don't interact very much, and what contact they do have feels rather contrived. As a result, the film feels like an awkward mix of disconnected slapstick, farce and melodrama. That said, these high-powered actors can hold together even the flimsiest scene. Dench and Nighy generate some lovely emotional resonance in their contrived storyline, while Smith finds some quiet pathos in Muriel's own journey, even if the filmmakers seem to have forgotten to hire someone to do her costumes, hair and make-up.
Continue reading: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review
Solid acting and adept filmmaking help make up for the fact that this film asks us to spend a couple of hours in the presence of a group of truly despicable characters. They're played by some of the brightest (and most beautiful) rising stars in the movies at the moment, but each one of these young men is vile to the core. So the fact that these are supposed to be Britain's brightest and best hope for the future makes the film pretty terrifying.
It's set at Oxford University, where the elite Riot Club (including Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Freddie Fox, Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer and Olly Alexander) are on the lookout for wealthy white students to complete their 10-man membership. They find suitable candidates in new arrivals: the sneering Alistair (Sam Claflin) and conflicted Miles (Max Irons), whose one drawback is that he's seeing a common girl (Holliday Grainger). After the rigorous initiation process, Alistair and Miles are welcomed to the hedonistic gang at a lavish dinner in the private room of a country pub. But things turn nasty as they drunkenly hurl abuse at the pub manager (Gordon Brown), his daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay) and a high-class hooker (Natalie Dormer) they hire for the night.
Based on the play Posh by screenwriter Laura Wade, the film is centred around this increasingly chaotic dinner party. Although nothing that happens is particularly surprising, because these young men are such relentlessly bigoted, misogynist snobs that it's impossible to believe they belong anywhere other than prison. They certainly don't deserve their self-appointed status as the top students at Oxford, who are getting debauchery out of their systems before taking the lead in British politics and business. But then, that's precisely Wade's point, and she makes it loudly. Thankfully, director Lone Scherfig balances things by offering glimpses into these young men's dark souls while skilfully capturing the old-world subculture and a strong sense of irony.
Continue reading: The Riot Club Review
Martin McDonagh gleefully plays with both the gang thriller genre and the moviemaking process with this enjoyably absurd action comedy. It's a little self-indulgent, acknowledging how difficult he found it to follow up his acclaimed film In Bruges. But a continual stream of hilariously clever gags make it thoroughly entertaining, and the seriously great actors are so playful that it's infectious.
At the centre, naturally, is an Irish writer named Marty (Farrell), living in Hollywood and struggling to write his next screenplay. He settles on the title Seven Psychopaths, and decides that his lead character will be a nonviolent Buddhist killer. Otherwise he's stuck. Then he discovers that his hyperactive pal Billy (Rockwell) is running a scam with Hans (Walken), kidnapping dogs and claiming the rewards from their owners. This all goes terribly wrong when they grab the beloved shitzu of the mercurial thug Charlie (Harrelson), sending him into a murderous rampage. And as Marty finds himself in the middle of it, his script starts to take shape.
McDonagh is adept at combining freewheeling wackiness with more astute observational comedy. This film isn't as emotionally resonant as In Bruges, but it crackles with the same sharp dialog and offhanded violent silliness. Most of this plays up the amusing shock value of sudden death, although there are moments that are surprisingly touching, mainly due to a wonderfully textured turn from Walken. Rockwell is the other standout as the manic, unpredictable Billy, an enthusiastic mischief-maker. And Harrelson has a great presence as the funny-terrifying Charlie.
Continue reading: Seven Psychopaths Review
Preteen girls will find this soppy romance unbearably romantic, but everyone else will struggle to sit through it. Based on the Jenny Downham novel Before I Die, the movie feels like a British variation on the Nicolas Sparks genre with its seaside locations and teary drama. It looks lovely, but is so emotionally manipulative that older viewers are more likely to roll their eyes than shed a tear.
Dakota Fanning stars as 17-year-old Tessa, known locally as the girl with leukaemia who opted out of treatment. She has a secret bucket list that her parents (Considine and Williams) know nothing about, and her best pal Zoey (Scodelario) is helping her work through, from committing petty crime to trying drugs. But sex is at the forefront of Tessa's mind, especially when she meets the dreamy new boy next door. Adam (Irvine) is a sensitive soul who is dealing with his own grief, so is perfectly suited to help Tessa face her own mortality.
Writer-director Parker shamelessly steers each scene into the desired emotion. Some sequences are cute and silly, while others are melodramatic and tense, but it's all so deliberate that we never have a sense of real life taking place. There isn't a single throwaway moment, which prevents the actors from creating complex characters. Instead, they spend much of the time gazing at each other wistfully. Fanning's iridescent blue eyes are mesmerising, while Irvine's quivering features are strikingly beautiful, but we're left wondering why we should be interested in these mopey teens.
Continue reading: Now Is Good Review
Seven retirees meet at the airport as they move to Rajasthan to retire in a newly restored hotel. Evelyn (Dench) is financially strapped due to her late husband's debts. Muriel (Smith) is getting a faster, cheaper hip replacement.
Douglas and Jean (Nighy and Wilton) can't afford to retire in Britain. Graham (Wilkinson) has unfinished business in India. And Norman and Madge (Pickup and Imrie) are both single and looking for love. But manager Sonny (Patel) has slightly exaggerated the hotel's facilities.
Continue reading: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review
Based on P.G. Wodehouse's novel, the film concerns the exploits of one Jim Crocker (Sam Rockwell), a young wastrel whose social-climbing American mother (Allison Janney, sharp as a tack) has forced him and his father (Tom Wilkinson), a failed British actor, to live in London and try and impress the swells there. She does this just to tick off her competitive sister, Nesta (Brenda Blethyn), a fact not wasted on the men of the family. Spoiling his mother's plans is Jim's penchant to booze it up all over town, getting into fistfights and leaving flappers scattered about the house and in his bed. Jim decides to ostensibly reform his wayward ways when he meets Nesta's step-niece Anne (Frances O'Connor), who won't have anything to do with him unless he pretends to be someone else - Jim once wrote a gossip column under the name "Piccadilly Jim", and once someone else writing the column (he hasn't worked on it for years) gave a negative review to a collection of Anne's poems. Jim thusly does the only sensible thing a fellow could do: He pretends to be a teetotaler Christian named Algernon Bayliss. Somehow, along the way, a German spy and some scientific secrets come into play, but one would be well-served to not wonder how.
Continue reading: Piccadilly Jim Review
Twenty years from now people will look back and say, "Man, everyone was so weird in the nineties!" and frankly after seeing this movie, I'll agree.
Continue reading: Splendor Review
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