Friday, May 11, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel houses the newest thing to be outsourced to India; senior citizens. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an uplifting, heartfelt film with an intrinsic warmth that can only come from emotional sincerity.

Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) thought her worst nightmare is a dark skinned doctor, but in order to get a new hip, she opted to have her medical care outsourced to India. She decided to stay at the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, a small family owned hotel run by the young, and ambitious, yet underachieving Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). Dutiful parents Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) come to the hotel after an act of parental sacrifice makes old age very difficult. Judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) stays at the hotel while takes care of unresolved business from his childhood. Evelyn Gleenslade (Judi Dench) has lived a life sheltered from adventure and joy and decides to embark on an her life’s adventure starting in India.

Put most succinctly, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a film about love and all its accoutrement – especially regret. All incarnations of love are shown: parental, romantic, friendly, and societal. The richness, warmth, depth, scars, flaws and sacrifices of love are shamelessly laid out for the audience’s examination. It is displayed with all the insight, judgment, and wisdom of a person with a lifetime of experience benefiting and being stung by love.

Even though there are no giant curve balls that smack the audience in the face (flame throwing grannies), the stories are no less compelling. It is exactly because they could be any one of us or any of our grandparents that it impossible for an audience member not to see themselves in the characters. They are all deeply flawed, but no less endearing. Their excuses, duty, loyalty, love, status, and ease are ones we might all use to justify the decisions we make to make small compromises in our life. They show the path of those small bumps in a different direction.

While the story of some of the characters is easy to predict, it is no less enjoyable to watch those characters develop predictably. There are a few characters though, especially Graham and Evelyn, who take journeys of love that challenge younger audience members to examine their choices, and whose stories are not easy to foretell.

The cast of seasoned actors matches the delicate writing, each giving their characters a subtle layered quality. It is pretty hard to go wrong with a cast whose cumulative years in the business may reach quadruple digits. I was most taken by Wilkinson, who used Graham to simultaneously rip apart my heart and sew it back together.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a gift to the heart, because it examines love without mania, without cliché Hollywood mechanics, without syrup, and without losing sight of how love should feel.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers: Could Give an Infant a Mustache

When an immature demi-god has a megalomaniacal temper tantrum, it is up to the Avengers to save the world. With more fights and explosions than plot, The Avengers has enough testosterone to give a newborn girl a mustache the likes of which would make Tom Selleck weep with envy.

In a cosmic act of a cataclysmically immature sibling-rivalry, Thor’s little brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to earth to have an emotional meltdown and punish the people of earth for it. After initial interventions fail, the government begrudgingly has to employ a semi-functional rag-tag bunch of misfit heroes to save the world and even gives them the snazzy name, The Avengers. The styling sassery of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the stedfast handsomeness of Captain America (Chris Evans), unpredictable green menace Hulk (Bruce Banner), god-like hammer-swinger Thor (Chris Hemsworth), beautiful emotional manipulator Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and her butt (Tushie Johansson).

Do not bother seeing The Avengers with an expectation to understand the plot or much of the dialogue unless you are willing to put in more than ten hours of homework. The Avengers requires the viewer have watched all the previous Marvel Universe films that feature the main characters, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, since 1998: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. The premise of the movie makes absolutely no sense having not seen Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger because the impetus and cause of peril are explained in those movies and not explained at all in The Avengers. The Avengers exploits relationships and characters from the other movies and does not explain them. They give only the most brief and implied explanations of the characters. There are constant references to characters or events that are not in this film, inside jokes, and dialogue Easter eggs that require having seen the previous movies. If you have not seen all of the previous movies past the end of the credits, you may be completely lost and not know some of some of the characters at all. As a consequence they demand the audience be able to identify all the characters, even the ones with the least amount of screen time and that appear only after the credits, relationships between characters, and have a strong memory of the plots of six flicks. With a grand total of 601 minutes, that’s over ten hours, of movie to watch before seeing The Avengers that is a huge expectation to place on a person just to see a movie.

Of course, even if you have done your homework there should be a very low plot expectation, because there is not much plot to The Avengers. Plot to the The Avengers as plot is to pornographic movies; words strung together to make the audience feel a bit better about themselves for watching a visualization of a carnal desire and enjoying it. You know, sort of like saying, “I read Playboy for the articles.”

The characters take advantage of any excuse to fight with each other and even fight when there is no excuse. They fight bad guys, they fight good guys, they fight each other. The only thing that happens more often is smashing things. You are thinking of one character – you are wrong. They all smash things. That building - SMASH IT. Mad at it – SMASH IT. Love it – SMASH IT. That car – SMASH IT! That tree – SMASH IT! THAT OTHER HERO – SMASH HIM! THE AIR – SMAAAAAAAASH IIIIIT!

The Avengers and Loki do not blow things up as often as they smash things or fight with each other, but there is no shortage of segments of explosive extravagance, especially toward the end of the movie.

There are some exciting transportation devices at the end of the movie that are both gorgeous and frightening but worth seeing.

The Avengers is a smashplosionfest sure to raise the testosterone and lower the estrogen of any one in its direct effect cone. I would not be surprised if there is a The Avengers babyboom nine months from its theatrical and DVD releases.