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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Be Mature

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Wednesday March 4, 02:48 am
Those Brits are back in India for more mild mayhem


Roxy (coming soon)



Hollywood doesn’t make movies for 60-year-olds. (Hell, it doesn’t even make movies for 40-year-olds.) This doesn’t mean there isn’t an appetite for mature movies, because there is; it’s just grossly underserved.


The first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel proved that. It wasn’t particularly groundbreaking, but the dramedy managed to make $136 million — on par with flashier titles like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Into the Storm, while only relying on the reputations of Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love).


In the wittily titled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the British retirees of the first movie have made Jaipur their home and carved a place of their own within the local community. The success of the original establishment has inspired unlikely partners Sonny (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) and Muriel (Smith) to expand their operations, a process they expect to bankroll with the assistance of an American conglomerate.


The business move brings up Sonny’s worst tendencies, putting his impending wedding with Sunaina (a girl who’s way out of his league) at risk. All the other couples are also going through their own growing pains, none more touching than the snail-paced courtship between Douglas (Nighy) and Evelyn (Dench), who’re both too willing to put other people’s needs ahead of their own. The arrival of a handsome stranger (Richard Gere) ups the stakes, as Sonny believes the second hotel depends on the new resident’s approval.


The downside of the expanding cast (along with Gere, Tamsin Greig of Episodes also joins in) is that none of the stories gets enough traction — and the one that receives the most screen time (ostensibly to attract younger audiences) is also the least appealing: Sonny is so obnoxious that it’s hard to believe anybody would put up with him, much less his attractive and forward-thinking fiancée. The Nighy-Dench pairing is far more interesting and should be holding the movie together, instead of Sonny’s tomfoolery.


The British icons of the core cast all manage to keep their characters compelling, in spite of the precious little screen time they’ve been allocated and the fact they’ve all been limited to a single personality trait. And there’s just something inherently funny in watching Maggie Smith driving around SoCal in a convertible.


There’s a well-intentioned spirit throughout The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The tone is all over the place (screwball comedy and bouts of drama share screen-time, sometimes within seconds of each other), but this sequel flies by and does a better job than the first movie of incorporating the Indian component. The relationships between the Westerners and the locals are those of equals (Gere’s love interest in the film is Sonny’s sullen mother), and you’d be hard-pressed to find a patronizing attitude. If you can leave your cynicism at home, give it a shot. 



Broadway (opens Saturday 14)



After a neverending parade of watered-down remakes, copycat villains and inept victims, it seems the world of horror has finally turned a corner, as two movies made on different continents have brought back substance to the genre. The American-made It Follows tackles the long-time repercussions of sexual assault, while the Australian-made The Babadook deals with the ever-present nature of grief.


Both are great — and The Babadook in particular has more genuinely unsettling moments than all five Paranormal Activity movies combined.


Seven years after the death of her husband, Amelia is very far from getting over it. Overworked, depressed and overwhelmed by Samuel, her little bundle of mayhem, Amelia hasn’t seen a hairbrush in weeks and is one setback away from a mental breakdown. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is a sinister (and awesome) pop-up book of undetermined origin, titled Mister Babadook.


A figure akin to the Sandman, and similar entities in all cultures everywhere, the Babadook takes hold of Samuel’s imagination. As the mischief escalates, the question becomes whether Samuel’s unbalanced (a certain possibility), or whether there’s another force at play?


There’s a lot to like in The Babadook (which, even though it’s a horror flick, could easily pass as a love letter to single mothers). Amelia is a very relatable character, both at her best and worst moments — she’s fallible, but certainly not stupid. Samuel can be a nightmare, but most of the times he’s an average, manic seven-year-old.


The film crosses the border between waking reality and the land of dreams often and effectively, messing with the audience’s grasp of the events taking place on screen. Elements of The Exorcist, The Omen and even Home Alone can be found in The Babadook — but all things considered, the movie is its own beast.


Ultimately, The Babadook is about the power of grief, particularly over those of us who can’t cope with loss. (Towards the end, this point is underscored with increasing bluntness.) It’s extremely rare for a horror movie to deliver a powerful message in such a compelling fashion. A must-see.






In the midst of the Cold War, the Soviet government came to the conclusion that one of the best ways to demonstrate the superiority of communism was through sports dominance. In hockey, this policy translated into a gruelling selection process in which the best players in the country would enter into a brutally intensive training program, to become the best players in the world.


The “Russian Five” were the program’s crown jewel, as the lineup of Fetisov, Kasatonov, Makarov, Larionov and Krutov led the USSR to an astounding number of World Championships and Olympic medals. But the tension between the coach and the team, plus the effects of the Perestroika, caused a number of rifts within the group — some of which never healed.


Red Army is a terrific documentary by Gabe Polsky. In a tidy 80 minutes, the film offers insight on the rise and fall of the team, the role of initial mentor Anatoli Tarasov (who gave the team its trademark flow) and how former KGB-flunky-turned-coach Viktor Tikhonov profited from his predecessor’s work for decades. 


The movie, like the Russian Five themselves, revolves around Slava Fetisov. Now a prickly 56-year-old, Fetisov minces no words while describing the tyrannical Tikhonov regime, as well as his teammates. Every episode is equally fascinating: training camp, the East vs. West rivalry, dissention in the ranks, the NHL temptation and living behind enemy lines.


Polsky does a terrific job of covering a lengthy and convoluted moment in history in swift fashion, and in giving us a peek into the lives of elite athletes under the Soviet regime. If anything, Red Army could have benefited from a counterpoint for Fetisov (since, allegedly, Tikhonov refused to participate). Regardless, documentaries don’t get any more entertaining than this, and you don’t need to be a puck-head to enjoy it.

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