Movies: 'Musical Chairs,' 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' & 'Battleship'
Updated 2:54 pm, Friday, May 18, 2012
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
Independent filmmaker Susan Seidelman's sentiment is in the right place, even though she never gets into the groove with this schmaltzy tale about disabled dancers -- a Westport Cinema Initiative benefit on Friday, May 18, at Westport Town Hall. (The screening is at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall's auditorium. Tickets cost $10 and may be purchased at www.westportcinema.org or at the door.)
Energetic Armando (E.J. Bonilla) was born to dance. Despite the efforts of his mother (Priscilla Lopez) to have him take over the family restaurant business in the Bronx and marry their Puerto Rican neighbor (Angelic Zambrana), Armando would rather move to the music. That's why he hangs out, working as a janitor/substitute instructor, at the dance studio where his adored WASP-y Mia (Leah Pipes) teaches. And when she's paralyzed from the waist down after a traumatic automobile accident, he stays by her side, not only starting a wheelchair ballroom dancing program on the basketball court at her rehab center but also working with Mia to get her ready to compete in New York's first wheelchair ballroom dancing tournament -- to be held in only three months.
Seidelman ("Desperately, Seeking Susan") does her best with the predictably melodramatic plot concocted by screenwriter Marty Madden. Unfortunately, the supporting characters are all too trite and stereotypical. There's the obnoxious Iraqi War veteran Kenny (Morgan Spencer), the angry Goth girl Nikki (Auti Angel) and Chantelle (Laverne Cox), the sassy transsexual who becomes romantically involved with Wilfredo (Nelson P. Landrieu), one of Armando's older Latino relatives.
Problem is, the superficial narrative contains distressing misinformation. While some paralyzed people can, indeed, become adroit in physical activities like ballroom dancing, along with basketball and other sports, but in order to master that kind of control of their bodies, they have to spend months, perhaps years in grueling rehabilitation, not 90 days. Another misguided idea is that disabled women cannot bear children. Iin many cases, they can -- and do.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Musical Chairs" is a simpatico if shallow 6, struggling to be a life-affirming, feel-good fantasy.
"THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL"
Culture shock lies in store for seven, cash-strapped senior Brits who board a plane from London to Jaipur, ready to embark on the third act of their lives.
There's recently widowed Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench), retired High-Court judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), lonely Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie), randy Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup), quarrelsome Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton), and former housekeeper Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) who, while awaiting a low-cost hip replacement, adamantly refuses to eat anything she doesn't know how to pronounce.
Their destination in India is the once stately but now dilapidated hotel, which is managed as a retirement residence "for the elderly and beautiful" by relentlessly optimistic, if hopelessly inexperienced, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel from "Slumdog Millionaire"). Enthusiastic Sonny's sincere earnestness tries to compensate for the lack of doors, functional telephones and plumbing as he pursues the "forbidden" love of his life, Sunaina (Indian actress Tena Desai), a call center worker.
Adapted from the 2004 novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach, this bittersweet, fish-out-of-water comedic drama, poignantly scripted by Ol Parker and compassionately directed by John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love," "The Debt"), is a bit reminiscent of Robert Altman's interweaving ensembles, along with "Enchanted April" and "Cocoon," in the way the lives of these expectant travelers are radically changed as they encounter challenges in this foreign culture and accommodate to its customs. On a deeper level, there's a subtle, heartfelt commentary on outsourcing the elderly, along with customer service call centers, in countries where their limited funds will go further.
The accomplished cast of seasoned thespians makes the most out of every witty scene, along with a character unto itself: the distinctive architecture of the hotel, a former chieftain's palace, located several hundred miles southwest of Udaipur. Cinematographer Ben Davis artfully captures the inherent cacophony and incessant chaos of careening tuk-tuks in the vividly colorful street scenes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is an adventurous 8. Anglophiles should check in and check it out.
Chock full of excitement and explosives, this is a popcorn picture extravaganza -- delivering noisy, escapist entertainment to those who enjoy the classic Hasbro board game.
As ships from around the world gather off the coast of Hawaii for their annual RIMCAP naval exercises, the exploratory Beacon Project that was sent into space has reached a planet with a similar atmosphere to Earth. As a result, five gigantic spaceships filled with hostile aliens from another galaxy are headed our way -- and who can stop them?
Could it be the Hopper brothers: 26 year-old maverick Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and his straitlaced older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard)? First glimpsed at a bar on Oahu, they're a good guess. Because after a large, unknown object is spotted jutting out of the sea near his Navy destroyer, USS John Paul Jones, now-Lieutenant Alex Hopper is sent out to investigate, along with Petty Officer Second Class Cora Raikes (pop star Rihanna), a tough-as-nails weapons specialist. Then, of course, the enemy missiles attack.
For romantic distraction, Alex has become engaged to physical therapist Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), whose father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), commands the Pacific Fleet. She's working with double-amputee Army veteran Mick Canales (real-life Iraq hero Gregory D. Gadson) and scientist Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater), who devises a way to break the aliens' communication wall.
Inspired by the board game, screenwriting brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber ("RED") haphazardly piece together a bland, cliche-riddled, interstellar story, beginning with the discovery of a so-called "Goldilocks planet," meaning that it's close enough to, yet far enough away from the sun to sustain life.
Since neither Kitsch ("John Carter") nor model Decker displays much acting ability, the emotional stakes are remarkably low. However, little of that is of much interest to director Peter Berg ("Hancock," "Friday Night Lights") and his Industrial Light & Magic production crew, who concentrate on creating the big-budget, naval combat "Transformer"-like special effects.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Battleship" steams to an energetic, action-filled 5, but it's flimsy, formulaic and far too long.