~Upstairs at the Savoy~
The Second Best Exotic
Rated PG; 122 minutes
Peter Debruge, Variety (excerpted)
If the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was all about seeking rest and relaxation half a world away in India, then its relatively hectic successor finds the entire ensemble hustling jobs in Jaipur: Douglas (Bill Nighy) gives tours of sites about which he knows precious little; Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) tend bar at the expats’ club; Evelyn (Judi Dench) hunts for exotic fabrics; and Muriel (Maggie Smith) co-manages the establishment, which has been such a success that its ambitious — and newly engaged — owner, Sonny (Dev Patel), is looking to expand.
All this busy-ness is good for business, though it makes for a rather high-stress retirement, as no one seems to be taking advantage of the fact they made the move to escape the grind. Though his original hotel is still something of a shambles, Sonny has ambitions to buy a neighboring property and fix it up, too, but for that he’ll need the financial backing of Evergreen, a U.S.-based retirement company managed by a visionary investor (David Strathairn) whose philosophy, “Leaves don’t need to fall,” may as well be the mantra of all the hotel’s overworked residents
If the filmmakers have a secret weapon, it’s the addition of Richard Gere, who can weaken the knees of a certain demographic faster than you can say “osteoporosis.” It’s not so common to find an ensemble of this caliber so enthusiastic to work together, and that chemistry comes across — not so much in the romantic pairings, which are rather implausibly constructed so that no one goes home alone. Rather, whatever spark exists off-camera can’t help but reveal itself during those irreverent, potentially insensitive moments that made the original so much fun. For a film conceived without any chance of a sequel in mind, The Best Exotic actually lends itself surprisingly well to being extended, mostly because the cast make their characters so lively, we’re happy for the chance to spend more time with them.
~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Academy Award Nominee ~
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Foreign Language Film
Rated R; 140 minutes
In Russian w/subtitles
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (excerpted)
The great trial of Job is reborn in this magnificent Russian movie, first seen at Cannes this year. Leviathan is a tragic drama, compelling in its moral seriousness, with a severity and force that escalate into a terrible, annihilating sort of grandeur. Zvyagintsev combines an Old Testament fable with something like Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice; it also has something of Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront or Robert Rossen’s municipal graft classic All the King’s Men.
Kolia (Alexey Serebriakov) is a car mechanic with a modest property on prime real estate: a beautiful spot on the Barents Sea, but a crooked mayor called Vadim – a wonderful performance from Roman Madyanov – wants this land, and hits Kolia with a compulsory purchase order. Kolia’s old army buddy Dimitri, now a slick Moscow lawyer, has an incriminating file on Vadim that he promises will induce Vadim to back down, but attempting to blackmail Russia’s well-connected gangster class is fraught with danger. Leviathan shows a world governed by drunken, depressed men: everyone is drowning in vodka and despair. Kolia is at the centre of a perfect storm of poisoned destiny, at the focal point of smart lawyers, aggressive politicians and arrogant priests.
The title refers to Hobbes’s Leviathan, the classic work about liberty and the state, and also the whale. A Dostoyevskian-looking priest speaks to Kolia about enduring his trials like Job, submitting to God’s will, as mighty as the great beast of the sea: “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a fish-hook?” Yet Kolia has become not Job, but the beached whale itself. Stunningly shot and superbly acted, especially by Madyanov, this is film-making on a grand scale.
~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Not Rated; 76 minutes
Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter (excerpted)
One of the most effortlessly pleasurable distractions at the Cannes film festival, Gabriel Polsky's solo directing debut, Red Army, is a playful documentary about the former Soviet Union's national ice hockey squad, an all-conquering machine schooled under military training-camp conditions as an ideological propaganda weapon.
Red Army is a slick, witty, fast-moving blend of sports story and history lesson with clear appeal beyond the hockey-fan demographic. The tone is mostly light-hearted, but with splashes of personal tragedy and political intrigue to add grit. Interweaving scratchy archive footage from the 1970s and 80s with handsomely shot contemporary interviews, Polsky talks to former superstar players, retired KGB officers, sports journalists and veteran bureaucrats.
His star interview is Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov, a former captain of the Soviet national team and double Olympic gold medal-winner, whose colorful life story gives the film its loose narrative spine. Fetisov's stellar career was full of triumph and tension, confrontations with his Communist bosses and bitter fall-outs with former sporting comrades.