The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
An esteemed ensemble cast of British veterans elevates this modestly charming saga of seniors who travel to India for what they are led to believe will be a luxurious retirement at a restored posh hotel, thanks to a shrewd marketing campaign by a young hotelier (Dev Patel). However, they find the opposite when they arrive, leading to a journey of self-discovery for most of them amid some rather dilapidated surroundings. Even if the bittersweet story takes a predictable path, cast members including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy make the most of the smaller moments. Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love). (Rated PG-13, 124 minutes).
The structure of this documentary might seem familiar for those who have seen Spellbound or Mad Hot Ballroom, among others, yet there are some powerful moments contained within the stories of six young ballet dancers from varied backgrounds who train for the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix competition. The film is a tribute to ballet first and foremost, and rookie director Bess Kargman has a keen eye for the dance sequences. But there’s also a poignancy to many of the behind-the-scenes stories of determination involving parental pressure to succeed, overcoming socioeconomic obstacles, and tearing down preconceived adolescent notions. Its enjoyment is not limited to dance aficionados. (Not rated, 90 minutes).
Jesus Henry Christ
This pretentious comedy from director Dennis Lee (Fireflies in the Garden), expanded from his short film, tells the story of Henry (Jason Spevack), an extremely precocious pre-teen from a dysfunctional family that includes his harried single mother (Toni Collette). The misfit prodigy seeks acceptance in life, so he embarks on a whimsical search for his biological father. Spevack’s performance is a standout, but the film is an uneven mix of forced eccentricities and gradually annoying visual gimmicks that leave the characters almost completely detached from reality. There are some amusing moments that don’t add up to much in the end. Also stars Michael Sheen. (Rated PG-13, 92 minutes).
Last Call at the Oasis
Filmmaker Jessica Yu (Ping Pong Playa) will open the eyes, but probably not mouths, of many moviegoers with this topical documentary about the world’s dwindling water supply. The film argues that global water issues don’t only affect third-world countries, but could become a crisis in the United States in the near future, even down to the water we drink every day. Yu’s presentation, which features a handful of cameos to help lighten the mood, is persuasive even if the structure is uneven. At least the film is passionate and insightful about its topic, and not just intended as some sort of cheap scare tactic. (Rated PG-13, 105 minutes).
Samuel L. Jackson has fun chewing the scenery as a deranged killer in this otherwise formulaic thriller that provides some campy amusement before running out of gas. John (Luke Wilson) is an unlucky suburban realtor whose life spins out of control after an innocent encounter with a mysterious stranger (Jackson) who wears a fedora and whistles Dixie. John soon finds himself held hostage during a terroristic spree that later threatens his wife (Leslie Bibb) and children. Director Chris Fisher, who based his screenplay on a Thomas Berger novel, wastes a promising set-up with an overwrought climax that drains any suspense the film had generated. (Rated R, 89 minutes).