THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL REVIEW

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These old dogs need to learn some new tricks if there’s going to be another one.

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny (Dev Patel) pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.

Now, I loved the first film. It was fun, easy going, a charming little affair with a fantastic cast. When I heard that there was going to be another, I was excited. Hardly surprised after the reception the original received.

However, this outing seemed to suffer from the dreaded sequelitis. The charm offensive just about pulled it off to make it watchable. BUT I was left wanting more. A phrase I’m using far too often lately.

The opening didn’t really build my hopes up as Patel’s Sonny and Dame Maggie Smith’s Muriel barter with a boardroom of corporate drones about financing the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Smith’s rambling and raving about how Americans never serve tea properly didn’t really deliver the laughs. If anything, it annoyed the hell out of me and was dreadfully clichéd.

Look, I’m English. (What?!) Tea has always been a recurring joke but come on, we’re better than that! I still had a little guilty chuckle but when the gag kept popping up; it soon died of death.

Patel played Sonny well. But I found him a lot more irritating this time round. However, what did keep me watching was Sonny and Muriel’s relationship. A surrogate mother/son dynamic that made for hilarious and heart-warming viewing.

I felt Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle’s story line was a little too silly. I was interested in Norman and Carol’s relationship as the pair struggle to adapt to a monogamous lifestyle after playing the field for so long.

BUT all I got was a subplot that was taken out of a bad Carry On film with a drunken conversation between Norman and a taxi driver unwittingly setting up a “hit” on his partner.

I only really got some enjoyment or drama out of the pair in the closing moments. BUT it was resolved far too quickly for my liking. A shame.

Bill Nighy. A comedy legend and a talented actor in my eyes. Disappointing. He just seemed to dither and normally it worked to his advantage but I found myself getting bored of him. The whole tour gag with a young Indian lad feeding him information with a dodgy wireless ear piece has been done time and time again.

His subplot only got interesting when Penelope Wilton made a surprise appearance to upset the apple cart.

It was a surprise that Douglas (Nighy) and Evelyn’s (Dench) characters were still courting and not properly together. Inevitably a spanner is thrown in the works as Evelyn is given an opportunity to work again.

This is where it killed things for me. Dench’s absence was missed. Merely reprieved with little scenes in which we see her and a market trader bartering and dealing with the local community.

Celia Imrie’s love triangle story line was a little nothingy. Her inevitable brewing romance with the chauffeur that drove her to the two men she was seeing was predictable but easygoing.

However, she seemed to be pushed further into the background. If not for a memorable quote upon Gere’s arrival, “God have mercy on my ovaries”, I wouldn’t have known she was there.

Patel’s business venture ambitions and impending wedding certainly spiced things. Sonny’s best friend’s questionable friendship with his fiancee certainly ignited some much needed tension and drama into the mix. BUT to the same old infuriating and predictable results.

While we’re talking about predictable; the red herring hotel inspector subplot was naff. Richard Gere did his best and played the mystery man well BUT it was all so hokey. Sonny “pimping” out his mother to try and improve his review got the odd chuckle. BUT Tamsin Grieg and her shady American accent just didn’t work.

Hardly spoilerific but what was the purpose of David Strathairn’s role? He had the easiest job going. A waste of an incredibly talented actor.

It wasn’t all bad. Maggie Smith was on fine form as usual. Her sniping and complaining delivered the better moments. One perfect example being when Evelyn shares some wonderful advice with her and she simply looks at her, baffled and asks; “I’m sorry. Were you talking to me?” Priceless.

The ending certainly left things open and wasn’t without a few surprises (Don’t worry. No spoilers). And dare I say, I had a little tear.

I was able to walk out with a cheeky little grin after seeing the geriatric icons jumping up and down at the wedding reception without a care in the world.

BUT it just didn’t carry it off as well as the first. A film I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with much more.

Maybe I went in with too high an expectation this time. It was certainly watchable and there were laughs to be had, “Why die here? When I can die . . . there”.

A mixed bag of spice and naff tobacco for me. Tobacco being the stodgy story lines.

2.5/5

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NATIVITY 3: DUDE, WHERE’S MY DONKEY?

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Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

Dude, Where’s My Donkey?

No, not the long awaited sequel to Dude, Where’s My Car? (Well, I liked it). I would have preferred watching an attempt at that than endure this festive fiasco again.

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Now, I hadn’t seen the previous sequels before (and after this, I won’t be) but I thought a third installment? It must be doing something right. I can safely say that this should nail that lid to the coffin.

So what’s it all about? The pupils of St Bernadette’s and the madcap Mr Poppy (Marc Wooton) are back! When their new teacher Mr Shepherd (Martin Clunes) loses his memory as well as Archie the Donkey, it’s up to them to save the day and reunite him with his fiancée Sophie (Catherine Tate) in New York.

I’m a huge fan of Martin Clunes and knew he would be up for a laugh. He applies his Doc Martin spiel with aplomb and carries the film as much as possible. He managed to make certain gags that stunk (as bad as the donkey droppings that the numerous cast members stepped on repetitively) work.

The clothes they make him wear. He looks like a real life Christmas Where’s Wally? His singing. Yeah, he sings. My lord! The man could rival Pierce Brosnan from Mamma Mia!

Catherine Tate was incredibly flat and irritating. She seemed to be doing a really bad panto impression of her Impressions show?! Terrible. I thought having the comedienne would add something to this travesty but oh no!

Celia Imrie was delightful as the stand-in headteacher Mrs Keane or Mrs Mean. Yeah, that bad. Imrie works well with the children and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her.

Clearly her predecessor didn’t fancy another round. A cheeky nod to Martin Freeman and David Tennant with snow globes was a nice touch. Why on Earth did they do the other films? The money must have been good.

The Ofsted inspection subplot was completely unnecessary and didn’t go anywhere. Just an excuse for more naff tomfoolery with endless farting donkey gags and the droppings. Once was enough.

Mr Poppy, well . . . where do I begin? Marc Wooton certainly doesn’t care and fair play to the chap. BUT for the one good silly one liner he does deliver, there are a thousand million (in Poppy terms) incredibly annoying and terribly unfunny ones.

The teacher’s assistant with special . . . powers. I was exhausted with him after five minutes. It was like having a kid just watching him run and flail about. I wouldn’t trust him with my kids.

The little ‘uns might find him funny but the parents certainly won’t.

Now the kids who should be the main focus of the film seemed to be pushed to the background. Dragged along for the ride to burst out into a song or dance when the lazy and placid story line is running out of gas.

I expected more of an Outnumbered approach with the kids improvising. Nope. There was one scene that showed promise when the kids try to explain the Nativity to an amnesiac Clunes. A little girl’s answer about an angel was adorable; “An angel is someone who is half bird and half lady. AND she wears a really big white wedding dress”. More of that would have been welcome.

Now the flash mob sequences in which the children are allowed to shine are actually quite good. You can allow for some of the little tykes being out of step. The costumes and props were quite good.

What infuriated me was the fact they are forced to mime to their own singing . . . and badly. Just let them sing live!

Did I mention an amnesiac Clunes? I must have forgot to mention that (What?). He receives amnesia after being kicked in the head by a donkey. Hilarious, I hear you say? No, I didn’t think so.

The plot is terrible. I tried to switch off my critic voice in a film that’s supposed to be about Christmas and fun BUT stealing kids out of school and being looked after by a complete halfwit?

I mean, the amnesia ploy was all a bad excuse for the cast to have a Christmas tour around London and New York. The only part Debbie Isitt captured brilliantly and managed to make me a feel a little Christmas-sy and not just queasy.

Clunes had amnesia. He still had a wallet. You didn’t have to do a ridiculous flash mob dance to distract our apparently oblivious and incompetent border patrol officers so the kids could steal flight tickets and passports.

The lazy explanation from the psychologist was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Let’s flood his head with warm memories? There’s no physical injury. No physical injury bar the whopping donkey footprint on his forehead? Perr-leassse.

It seemed to me that we were watching established British TV comedy personalities trying to act like big kids in a poor panto. Why? You had the children right there. I have seen more originality and humour in my little brother’s school plays and they didn’t cost me a tenner. Not good enough.

The film is on far too long. 90 minutes was a push but 110? Behave. The length should have been swapped with its superior Christmas-sy competitor, Get Santa.

Adam Garcia played the panto villain well but his dancing was terrible. What was his profession again? A renowned dancer? Not from this. Ralf Little was brilliant as his dimwitted sidekick in a somewhat small cameo. Why didn’t he have a bigger role? He was funnier than half the cast in the 30 seconds he featured?

Jason Watkins (Trollied) was terrible. Normally a funny guy in his own right. Dull as dishwasher and irritating as hell.

Lauren Hobbs was adorable and did well as Clune’s daughter. She was probably the only memorable child in it. And that’s not the kids’ fault. I mean even the songs were highly unmemorable. And to make it worse, the kids have to sing them again AND again. It was like watching a really bad school panto!

I really laid into this one, didn’t I? I apologise but just because it’s Christmas; it doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged to 5 tops. Otherwise, go see Penguins of Madagascar, Paddington, anything BUT this.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

Sorry but 1/5

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?

WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY REVIEW

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From the makers that brought you Outnumbered. Now if you’re wincing at that title, then this may not be for you.

Doug (David Tennant), Abi (Rosamund Pike) and their three children travel to the Scottish Highlands for Doug’s father Gordie’s (Billy Connolly) birthday party. It’s soon clear that when it comes to keeping a secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability . . .

What We Did On Our Holiday very much follows that style and structure. Well, it is Outnumbered just with a completely different family. The children inevitably allowed the freedom to share their incredibly random but hilarious outlook on life.

A nicey-nicey dramedy that leaves you smiling. All in all, not bad. Not without its imperfections but a stellar British cast, along with some little newbies, help smooth out the creases.

David Tennant and Rosamund Pike (she’s been popping up everywhere at the moment and deservedly so) work well together as the sparring couple who must pretend to be happily married for the sake of keeping up appearances.

However, the kids have other plans. Mainly because they are kids and have no idea why they have to lie when Mum and Dad are always fighting and live in separate houses.

Harriett Turnbull and Bobby Smalldridge are fantastic as the curious little tykes. They come out with some belters that were most definitely not scripted. A highlight for me was when the little ‘uns met Annette Crosbie’s (One Foot in the Grave) lesbian ostrich farmer (You read that right).

She attempts to explain her sexuality, leading to the kids believing she is from a place called Lesbia. Smalldridge completely catches Crosbie off guard with a question about putting an ostrich’s egg back up her bottom. Even the comedy veteran cracked a grin.

Billy Connolly was, to be expected, brilliant. His story line with his ailing health hits a little more close to home. Especially with what the comedian is going through.

The discussions of death with the children are done very well and his character is instantly loveable as the giggling granddad. The family arguments are dealt with brilliantly and tackle the issues of divorce and spite, with the children inevitably suffering.

Ben Miller (Death in Paradise) doesn’t do a bad Scottish accent and plays the pompous uptight brother very well. Amelia Bullmore (Scott and Bailey) played quite a subdued role. That was until we dig into the reason (Luckily there was one) behind her silence. The answer lying in a YouTube video viewed by millions. Brilliant.

However, these stellar comedy actors were always going to play second fiddle to the kids. Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have introduced another set of future prospects. Turnbull was definitely the adorable scene stealer. Her gruelling interrogative manner with Ben Miller was worth the ticket price alone.

Halfway through this easy going fam-dram, there is an unexpected twist. Well the outcome of the twist was predictable but how the characters deal with it surprised me. It certainly played with the macabre. I won’t say much more because this a film I want people to see.

It’s not all perfect. I wish more was made with the family drama. It all gets heated, brilliantly acted but then evaporates into a corny finale with cheesy grandiose speeches and everybody singing and dancing.

Bullmore’s character was clearly going through some sort of breakdown and how Gavin (Ben Miller) treats her and their son Gordy (Ryan Hunter) was quite poor. To be honest, Gordy was a bit of a drip. It could have been down to Gavin’s treatment but nothing was made of it. A wasted opportunity.

Celia Imrie (The Love Punch) played such a small limited role. A shame for a talented actress. She did well but anyone could have played her.

Another minor quibble was the relevance of the escaped ostrich? It kept popping up and running across the screen. By the end of the film, apparently none and it wasn’t even funny.

Despite a darker twist, the film was always going to be a fluffy family drama and it all ends a little too cheesy and happily for my liking (Maybe it’s the cynic in me) but certainly one of the better ones. Worth an investment.

3.5/5 for me

THE LOVE PUNCH REVIEW

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I loved the cast. I just wish the gags had more of a punch.

It’s OTT, corny and absolutely ridiculous but fun enough with the odd laugh (BUT not as much as I hoped). However, one thing that this film does prove is that talented actors can make mediocre material much much more watchable.

Critically it’s a bit of a mess but for a cheap movie night, it’s worth a gander. So what’s it about? A divorced couple scheme to recover their stolen retirement money from a ruthless French businessman.

The opening chugged along as Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility/Nanny McPhee) and Pierce Brosnan (007! Come on!) snapped and griped at each other. Desperately trying to keep up appearances for their friends; the hilarious Celia Imrie (Calendar Girls/The Borrowers) and Timothy Spall (The Harry Potter franchise).

Brosnan and Thompson were a great pairing. They had good chemistry and you could tell they were having a laugh. Their bickering was certainly relatable and ticked all the boxes for any couple.

The realisation when their last child has flew the coop tied in with having to start all over again in their fifties was an interesting premise in itself. But that is soon thrown out of the window with a crazy crime caper that predictably reignites old flames and passions. Hardly a spoiler. It’s just that sort of film.

The supporting cast was a little disappointing. Tuppence Middleton’s (Tortured/Long Way Down) part was very flat and, to be honest, needless. Especially when some of the better jokes and screen time was spent on their interaction with their son Matt (Jack Wilkinson). An ongoing joke with a Skype conversation was actually quite funny. Great to see Ellen Thomas (Adoha from Rev) as Brosnan’s secretary. Kept expecting her to say “Hello Vicar!”. She manages to make a memorable impression in her two minute cameo. Shame.

The gag rate is very hit and miss. Spall and Imrie do deliver some of the better one liners from Spall’s random ex-war veteran tales to Imrie trying to handle a gun, “Hands up Melon Farmers”. The beautiful Louise Bourgoin was a stunner to boot but her character got incredibly annoying by the end.

Despite moving at an easygoing pace, the film does seem to run out of ideas and climaxes in sheer pandemonium. I mean this was never going to win plaudits for clever story telling but posing as American businessmen with the hope that maybe the slick French businessman Tom Morton (with a very mashed up accent) hadn’t met them before when he already had? Really?

It all gets rather silly and crashes into a ridiculous cheesy, predictable finale which downplays some of the more serious moments in which Brosnan and Thompson cross examine their relationship.

Without spoiling too much, there is a scene which perfectly shows what lies in store with this mad little movie. Both Brosnan and Thompson’s characters have allergies; Brosnan with cats and Thompson with flowers. They infiltrate a room which contains (what do you know) those very things.

The French landscape is shot beautifully. The content, well. At it’s best, a TV movie. But thankfully a well acted cast help The Love Punch get away with it. Almost reminiscent of the old sixties crime capers. Easy going, cheesy but dated.

A guilty pleasure if ever there was one.

2.5/5