The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was the surprise hit of 2012, now it’s sequel-the imaginatively titled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has been released. Can it repeat the same success again?

With the hotel flourishing under the management of Muriel (Maggie Smith) and Sonny (Dev Patel), they are looking to expand and buy a second hotel. But their future depends on an anonymous company inspector who will evaluate their prospects. Meanwhile the regular guests at the hotel continue with their new lives and loves in India while everything culminates at Sonny and Sunaina’s (Tina Desai) wedding.

It would be easy to make a joke saying that this is the second best film of the two movies, and it is. But it also knows its audience and gives them what they want. I thoroughly enjoyed the first movie, and the sequel doesn’t deviate too much from the winning formula. The majority of the cast are back, with a few new additions, and everything feels comfortable, homely and charming. A lot of it is down to its excellent cast who works their magic on the script and brings their characters to life. At times it can feel a bit predictable but that’s also reassuring in a way. The characters feel like old friends that you’re happy to see again; even the eternally annoying Jean (Penelope Wilton) makes a quick appearance. Although at least she’s meant to be grating.

It’s a film that’s not afraid to move at its own place, and by that I mean it’s rather slow at times. Which is fine, not everything needs to be car chases and explosions, but sometimes you do wish they could move the plot along a bit quicker. Even slower is the relationship between Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), who are still trying to decide if they are more than just friends. Although you want to tell them to hurry it long already there is something quite sweet and gentle about their relationship. Just like the film itself really.

Rating 3/5 – nothing groundbreaking but a reliable comedy-drama all the same

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Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?

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Having a deep discussion with my work colleagues the other day offered up a number of big, important debates. One in particular stood out in my mind. Which Game of Thrones character are you? The answer can be quite revealing.

I asked my colleagues who they thought I was. The answer was quite surprising-to me anyway. Apparently I’m like Sansa Stark.

Knowing that some people really disliked Sansa I was not sure if I was happy with that comparison, surely I’m a stronger character like Arya or Daenerys? And that would mean I would fall for idiots like Joffrey!  Then when I thought about it Sansa was probably more accurate then I thought. While I’m not overly girlie like Sansa I’m nowhere near a Tomboy like Arya. I like luxury and the nice things in life. I am normally quite polite and don’t like conflict. I probably wouldn’t be aware of the political maneuvering behind the scenes like Sansa was at the beginning of the show – in other words a bit dim when it comes to those kind of things. I also wouldn’t be able to cope with the burning hot sun and sand where Daenerys currently reigns. I am no dragon.

So with that all in mind, let me know which Game of Thrones character are you? And which one do you wish you were?

Are you the keeper of secrets and gossips like Lord Varys? Do you know nothing like Jon Snow? Or are you the Queen of scheming like power-hungry Cersei Lannister? (hopefully without the incest). Let me know in the comments below.

Also for those of us who have not read the books-please no spoilers! Thanks.

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G.B.F (2013)

First there was BBF and BFF, but apparently the coolest thing is the GBF-that’s Gay Best Friend to those not in the know. In G.B.F this American Teen comedy looks at the current trend of having a Gay Best Friend as the new fashion accessory but will it be sassy enough to make me enjoy this movie?

Tanner (Michael J. Willett) and his best friend Brent (Paul Iacono) are both closeted gay teenagers. Brent is desperate to come out but Tanner is not ready yet. When Tanner is accidently forced to come out he risks getting beaten up by the school jocks and bullies. His unlikely saviours come in the form of the three most popular girls at school (from rival cliques), who protect Tanner from the bullies as long as he chooses to become one of the girls’ GBF and promote their bid for Prom Queen.

If words like GBF, OMG or any kind of American Teen acronym bring you out in hives, you’re probably thinking you should avoid this at all cost. But G.B.F is actually a surprisingly sweet and likeable movie, albeit one that isn’t in the same league as films such as Mean Girls however much it tries. There isn’t as many snappy one liners or laugh out loud comedy to ensure that kind of status but I like the fact that the gay best friend normally seen in these movies is for once taking centre stage and given more to do then dispense fashion advise. The film lightly examines how Tanner is treated differently when he comes out. One of its main themes is about friendship and how the girls act like Tanner is a possession or a pet rather than a person.

Willett is cute and relatable as the shy Tanner who’s pushed into the limelight when he is thrown out of the closet. I’ve heard some say that Willett plays practically the same role as the one he does in TV series Faking It. But apart from both characters being gay they are actually very different. Whereas Willett’s Faking It character Shane is camp, confident and promiscuous, Tanner is shy, nerdy and more reserved, although grows in confidence as the film progresses.

Its young cast (mostly seen in TV shows like Awkward and Desperate Housewives) gamely bring their all to the comedy. While the film has all the usual teen movie clichés (popular girl, sassy black girl, camp gay friend etc) it tries to bring a little depth to them. For example Sasha Pieterse at first seems to be playing a similar character to Alison in Pretty Little Liars; however her role as Fawcett is given some much needed layers to the popular blond girl cliché.

While it’s not going to be a classic teen movie it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable one.

Rating 3/5 – a fun and endearing movie with a sweet centre

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It Follows (2014)

When will horror movie teens learn, just don’t have sex-ever! This latest horror from director/writer David Robert Mitchell makes a direct link between sex and death that is so often implied in slasher movies. But will this movie offer anything original to the horror genre?

Nineteen year old Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, who soon confesses afterwards that he has passed a deadly curse on to her through sex. A creature will be following her, slowly but steadily and won’t rest until she’s dead. No one else can see the creature and it can look like anyone. She can run for a while but the only sure-fire way to rid herself of the curse is to pass it on to someone else.

It Follows offers a new take on the sex equals death theme that runs through these type of movies. It’s a simple idea with a haunting creature that can take on any form while relentlessly coming for its victim. The beginning, showing one girl affected by the curse, is interesting and suspenseful as you wonder what the hell is going on. As you discover the rules of the curse you are willing Jay on to find a way to escape the creature’s clutches. You are constantly on edge as you are watching the screen, checking in the background for a lone figure to be coming straight for Jay. Monroe shows her role in The Guest was not a fluke and could be the new Scream Queen to watch. Her sister and friends are also a likeable and loyal bunch-which is makes a refreshing change for a horror film which normally show teenagers as bratty and horrible.

The film has a stylish look to it, almost dreamlike at the beginning until it turns into a waking nightmare (perhaps appropriate considering the idea for the film came to the director in his sleep). The director choreograph the film perfectly using 360 degree pans to make you feel like you always have to be on the lookout.The score also felt menacing and foreboding although was perhaps overplayed a little by the end.

Considering how creepy the premise is and how well made it is, it’s a becomes a little disappointing as it goes on. Bottom line is, it just wasn’t scary enough. After a great build up I kept expecting something a bit more but there was no final set piece that had me jumping out my seat or left me to scared to go to sleep. Maybe it was because I read so many good things about this film beforehand that it couldn’t live up to the hype?

Still for anyone looking for something different, this little chiller may provide some creepy fun.

Rating 3.5/5 – smart and creepy but needed to have more scares to be considered a classic

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50 Shades of Grey

The world has gone crazy for 50 Shades of Grey. Whether you love it or hate it everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Now the craze is at fever pitch following the release of the movie version by director Sam Taylor-Johnson. But was it worth the wait to the big screen or just an anti-climax?

When college graduate Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews the handsome, wealthy, businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) there is an immediate attraction. However Christian is not one for a conventional relationship and prefers to be in a dominant/submissive relationship. Despite both their misgivings Ana and Christian cannot stay away from each other and have passionate sex together, but can they be together if Christian is so intent on not having a normal relationship?

I read the first 50 Shades book when it came out and while it was an easy enough read to pass the time I did not continue reading the trilogy due to the annoying characters and the bad writing of the novels. I was interested in how the book would be made into a film considering it’s just Twilight fan fiction with added sex (and less sparkly vampires). In my opinion Sam Taylor-Johnson has done the best she could with the source material. Yes she has cut down the sex scenes which has annoyed the author E.L James as well as some fans but that doesn’t really come as a surprise. If you’re hiring a serious and accomplished director like Taylor-Johnson she wasn’t going to made a porn movie, and besides the film was long enough as it is without any more sex scenes added to it.

Considering how much I hated both the characters in the book I was surprised at how much they didn’t bother me in the film. This is partly due to the script which wisely cuts out Ana’s inner monologues with any mention of her inner goddess completely vanished, and they’ve reduced the amount of times Christian calls Ana ‘baby’ which was endlessly creepy and unsexy even if it was meant ironically. His stalker tendencies are also played down which is a relief as this annoyed me no end in the book (stalking is not sexy people!). The casting has also been a big help. Dakota Johnson managed the impossible in making whiney, weak Ana into an actual likeable person. She’s the best thing in this movie and they were lucky to find her. Dornan looks good and plays a damaged character well but he was better as a serial killer in the BBC drama The Fall. The two actors have just enough chemistry to keep you watching the movie.

Still this was never going to be the most critically acclaimed movie of the year and 50 Shades has its issues. It isn’t the best plot in the world. It’s a bit boring in places, and the film feels repetitive. And Christian still seems creepy and obsessive even if he is played by the lovely Jamie Dornan. After it was over I couldn’t say I’m in any rush to see the next movie.

Rating 3/5 – it won’t please everyone, but an accomplished director and likeable cast prevents this movie from being a disaster

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Boyhood (2014)

From Richard Linklater, the director of the Before Trilogy and School of Rock, Boyhood was shot sporadically over 12 years with the same cast and crew.  It was the front-runner for this year’s Best Picture Oscar but ended up losing out to Birdman. Was the Academy right to snub Boyhood?

From the age of six to eighteen we see Mason Evans Jnr (Ellar Coltrane) over 12 years of his life. We see him deal with his mum’s (Patricia Arquette in her Oscar-winning performance) destructive relationships, his annoying but sometimes loving sister (Lorelei Linklater) and trying to maintain a relationship with his dad (Ethan Hawkes) who has been distant for some of his childhood. Over the course of the movie we watch him grow up as he learns about life, first love and family.

Boyhood is essentially a very simple story and it would be easy to dismiss its process as simple. Except Richard Linklater painstakingly shot this over 12 years using the same cast. So many things could have gone wrong between filming or Linklater could have lost interest in his subject matter over the long periods of filming. However Boyhood is made with such passion and love from all involved that it ends up becoming far from ordinary despite its universal story of childhood.

No doubt some people may leave Boyhood thinking that not much happens, it’s not an overly dramatic film in the traditional sense but as you watch these characters over the years you become emotionally involved with them. You want Oliva to find some kind of happiness, you hope Mason Snr will turn into the father he hopes to be. Special praise must also be given to Coltrane who has to film his awkward years on-screen for everyone to see. He is in practically every scene and as the centre of the film he is a natural, holding it together well with strong support from the more experienced actors playing his parents. You believe their relationships and their development over the years. Nothing feels forced or crass it all plays out rather naturally.

It is Richard Linklater that shines most in this movie. This film was plainly a labour of love and that is what comes across in this movie. It may not be as flashy as Birdman with its seemingly one shot take but considering the work that went behind the scenes and the result on the screen you do wonder if Linklater’s seemingly simple tale was unwisely overlooked by the Academy last weekend? Maybe Birdman‘s take on the acting world also helped nudge its way to the Oscars. Not that Birdman wasn’t a great film, it was. But I can’t help feel a little sad that Linklater’s phenomenal film wasn’t recognised instead (or the even more brilliant Whiplash).

Considering it is 165 mins long (and regular readers know how I feel about loooong movies) it only started to drag a little towards the end. It’s quite impressive that it managed to hold my attention for so long without me complaining too much. Perhaps this was because every scene felt important to the script and not just added for superficial reasons. I actually enjoyed spending time with Mason and his family and wouldn’t mind revisiting them again some day.

Rating 4.5/5 – it may not have won the Best Picture/Best Director Oscars but I have no doubt Boyhood will last long in audience’s minds

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And The Oscar Goes to…My Predictions for the Oscars 2015

Every newspaper, blog and tv show seem to be giving their opinions on tonight Oscar results. So here’s mine! Granted as with most years some of these results are bound to be a bit predictable, but you never know when someone may come along and cause an upset.

Best Picture:

American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma,The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

My prediction:

I’m still annoyed Nightcrawler has not been included on the list, but then considering the dark and disturbing nature of the film it was always going to be an outside shot. Whiplash would be my personal favourite, but having just seen Boyhood (review to come later this week), it’s hard to imagine anyone else walking away with the Best Picture gong.

Possible upset: Birdman could sneak in and grab the win

Best Actor:

Steve Carrell, “Foxcatcher”, Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”, Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”, Michael Keaton, “Birdman”, Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

My prediction: Again, I’m annoyed that Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler was not recognised but out of all the above bookie’s favourite Eddie Redmayne does deserve to win on the night.

Possible upset: Michael Keaton might swoop in and snatch the gong from Redmayne’s hands.

Best Actress:

Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”, Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”, Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”, Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”, Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

My prediction: I have only seen two of the above movies, and I loved Brits Pike and Jones performances. I would love Jones to walk away with the award but it seems to be Julianne Moore‘s year so expect her to give the winner’s speech.

Possible Upset: Moore seems like a dead cert but could Marion Cotillard surprise everyone and steal Moore’s thunder?

Best Supporting Actor:

Robert Duvall, “The Judge”, Edward Norton, “Birdman”, Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”, Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”, J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

My prediction: J.K Simmons. Nothing further.

Possible upset: Edward Norton was hilarious in Birdman so maybe the Academy will vote his way?

Best Supporting Actress:

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”, Laura Dern, “Wild”, Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”, Emma Stone, “Birdman”, Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

My prediction: Patricia Arquette is the favourite and it’s easy to see why. Its unlikely anyone else is in with a shot.

Possible Upset: Could the voters decide to spread the love and give Wild’s Laura Dern an award to take home?

Best Director:

Alejando G. Inarritu, “Birdman”, Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”, Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”, Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Morton Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

My prediction: The hype has been building for a while now and Richard Linklater‘s stirling direction work in Boyhood looks set to bring home another award.

Possible upset: Alejando G. Inarritu showed off his fancy skills in Birdman and is the most likely to steal awards away from Boyhood on the night.

Not long now until the results are in and we can see if the Academy got it right this year. Let me know your predictions and opinions in the comments below.

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