WHEN I booked into THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (12: Twentieth Century Fox) at my local multiplex in February, I didn’t expect any surprises.
This manipulative charmer does exactly what it says on the posters and TV ads. It may be slightly predictable, yet this poignant tale never strays from satisfying, feel-good magic.
Seven English pensioners looking for a fresh start are drawn to an advert for an hotel in the Indian city of Jaipur and plan to spend their retirement there.
Lured by the promise of cheap luxury at the establishment of the title, the hotel, run by ever-optimistic manager Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), turns out to be a dump.
Sonny’s enthusiasm wins them over and the pensioners’ shared experiences and their own adventures in the city has a transformative effect.
Muriel (Maggie Smith) won’t eat anything that she can’t pronounce, but her xenophobia mellows, while Douglas (Bill Nighy), henpecked by wife Jean (Penelope Wilton), finds himself and Evelyn (Judi Dench) is faced with a romantic conundrum.
Graham (Tom Wilkinson), Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) make up the magnificent seven.
Full of heart-warming energy, the film boasts sharp dialogue, cleverly interwoven subplots and a treasure trove of British stars giving a masterclass in ensemble acting.
> The flame-skulled supernatural superhero (Nicolas Cage) returns in GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (12: Entertainment One), the hackneyed follow-up to the money-raking original.
The demon biker roams Eastern Europe aiming to break the pact he made with the Devil (Ciaran Hinds) by delivering a young boy to a cave-dwelling church sect before he becomes the Antichrist on his 13th birthday.
The action comes thick and slow with part-animated inserts and split screens and a monk (Christopher Lambert), tattooed up to the eyeballs, to break up the tedium. Cage indulges in his usual brand of mega-acting as the cursed stunt motorcyclist, fighting his inner demons to hilarious effect as he transforms into fire and brimstone.
The stand-out turn in this slice of hokum is Johnny Whitworth’s albino henchman, who trades in darkness and decay.
> Oh, joy! Another Jennifer Aniston movie!
Her latest lame comedy, WANDERLUST (15: Universal), sees two stressed-out New Yorkers (Paul Rudd and Aniston) leaving the city in search of a fresh start when he loses his job.
They stumble upon a rural retreat called Elysium, the type of retro commune full of loveable eccentrics that only exist in Hollywood films.
Living with these hippies initially seems idyllic, but living without the comforts of the modern world proves harder than expected.
While I admit that Rudd and Aniston have chemistry, they deserve better than this. Producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Bridesmaids) supplies his trademark explicitness and pottymouth dialogue, so at least there are a few cheap laughs along the way.
> Viewers who are easily pleased and like a good sob will find that THE VOW (12: Sony) is just the ticket.
Action man Channing Tatum shows off his more sensitive side by revisiting Dear John territory. He plays Leo, whose wife Paige (Rachel McAdams) suffers head trauma in a car crash and loses all memory of her time with her husband.
So he decides to woo her again, despite opposition from Paige’s parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) and an old flame (Scott Speedman).
This three-tissue tear-jerker is slicky made and pushes all the right emotional buttons, but the more cynical may baulk at the movie’s schmaltz, its pretentious voice-over and, truth to tell, its dullness.
> The backdrop to sexually charged A DANGEROUS METHOD (15: Lionsgate) is the feud between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, the fathers of modern psychoanalysis. An odd choice by director David Cronenberg, best known for horror films like The Fly, although it’s a provocative story about the fragile dividing lines between mind, body and soul.
The film deals mostly with the affair that develops at the turn of the 20th Century between the idealistic Dr Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), an hysterical patient who becomes his assistant, then his mistress, then his peer.
> THE INNKEEPERS (15: Metrodome), an affectionate throwback to 1970s schlock, will either appeal as an engaging character study or test the patience of those waiting for something to actually happen.
The Yankee Pedlar Inn is closing down after a century of service and the remaining employees uncover proof that it’s one of the USA’s most haunted hotels.
Once the amateur ghostbusters start experiencing alarming events, and scares percolate through the panic, it becomes weirdly effective in something akin to The Shining.