The Lady in the Van (2015)

The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Writer: Alan Bennett
Based on: Alan Bennett’s actual experience with Mary Shepherd
Cast: Maggie SmithAlex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Deborah Findlay, Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, James Corden, Russell Tovey, Alan Bennett
Seen on: 3.6.2016

Plot:
Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moved to a new neighborhood and he quite like it. Part of the neighborhood is Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a woman living in a van parked in his street. She’s weird, often rough and has issues, but Alan does take a liking to her. So when her existence is threatened because her road is being declared a no parking zone, Alan permits her to park the van in his driveway. What was supposed to be only a temporary solution, turns into a long-term fact and Alan starts to find out more about Mary’s past.

The Lady in the Van was a sweet film, told with a sly sense of humor that keeps the story from turning too dark, even when the realities it faces are harsher. It’s an enjoyable mix, although it stays a little too shallow to use the potential for social criticism it would have.

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Sequel to: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Cast: Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Penelope WiltonDiana Hardcastle, Dev Patel, Tena DesaeLillete DubeyVikram Singh, David Strathairn, Tamsin Greig, Richard Gere
Seen on: 9.4.2015

Plot:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is doing well with its permanent senior residents. So well, in fact, that Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) decide that they want to expand. But for that to work, they need an investor. They travel to the USA to talk to Ty Burley (David Strathairn), CEO of a chain of retirement homes there. Burley announces that he will send somebody to check out the hotel and make his decision based on that. But that’s not the only thing going on in the hotel: Sonny is getting married to Sunaina (Tina Desai), his mother (Lillete Dubey) keeps butting in – or at least that’s what Sonny feels. Two new guests arrive (Richard Gere, Tamsin Greig) and the old ones (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle) all have their own issues to deal with.

Much like the first film, the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was mostly fluff. It was funny, sweet and rather enjoyable, if you don’t expect too much of it and just want to see great actors in an entertaining film.

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Quartet (2012)

Quartet
Director: Dustin Hoffman
Writer: Ronald Harwood
Based on: Ronald Harwood’s play
Cast: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Michael Gambon, Sheridan Smith, Andrew Sachs

Plot:
At a home for retired musicians, the inhabitants are preparing for their yearly concert with which they also wish to raise some funds to keep the home opened. But things get disrupted when Jean (Maggie Smith) arrives at the home. Not only does Jean still stick to her diva ways, though she refuses to sing, she used to be married to Reggie (Tom Courtenay) who also lives in the home. Things between Reggie and Jean are unresolved, to put it mildly. But with the help of their friends Cissy (Pauline Collins) and Wilf (Billy Connolly), plus a planned quartet performance by the four of them, they start to put the past to rest.

Quartet was okay, but it certainly wasn’t great. Though it’s actually short, it dragged on. Plus, it remained annoyingly shallow and I just took an immediate dislike to Billy Connolly’s character.

quartet

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Based on: Deborah Moggach‘s novel These Foolish Things
Cast: Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Tena Desae

Plot:
7 British retirees travel to India where they take up residence in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A hotel they wrongly believe to be freshly restored. Instead they find a crumbling building run by the overwhelmed Sonny (Dev Patel). And generally India brings them nothing they expected. Evelyn (Judi Dench) ends up taking the first job of her life. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is looking for someone from his past. Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) are just looking for a connection. Muriel (Maggie Smith) just wants a new hip, even if she has to take it from a brown doctor. While Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) really just can’t afford anything else. But even though all of them might not get what they deserve, they might just get what they need.*

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is fluff. Fluff with a great cast and a nice atmosphere and a whole lot of cultural stereotypes. But it’s entertaining.

*Apologies, Batman.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the last movie in the Harry Potter series originally written by Joanne K. Rowling. The film was directed by David Yates, written by Steve Kloves and starring pretty much every British actor ever Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton, Evanna Lynch, Jason Isaacs, Warwick Davis, Bonnie Wright, David Thewlis, Ciarán Hinds, Julie Walters, Kelly Macdonald, John Hurt, Helen McCrory, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Mark Williams, Robbie Coltrane, Jamie Campbell Bower, Gary Oldman and Emma Thompson.

Plot:
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) slowly uncovers the final secrets surrounding his life while his fight with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) draws to an end. After pretty much everything has gone to hell, things – and people – are finally coming together for the final battle while Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) try to destroy the remaining horcruxes.

After HPatDH:1 2 pretty much had to be a cinematic revelation (I still can’t believe how boring 1 was), just in comparison. And that worked out. Is it the best movie ever? Well no, David Yates is still its director. But it’s a decent and fitting ending to the series.

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Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010)

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang is the sequel to Nanny McPhee, directed by Susanna White, written by Emma Thompson and starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Ewan McGregor, Bill Bailey, Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Smith.

Plot:
Mrs. Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has a rather difficult life: Her husband (Ewan McGregor) is at war (and hasn’t sent a letter for quite some time). Her brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) is pressuring her to sell her half of the farm they own. She works for the elderly Mrs. Docherty (Maggie Smith) who shows signs of dementia but doesn’t recognise it. Her three kids (Asa Butterfield, Oscar Steer and Lil Woods) are really wild and especially nervous since their cousins (Eros Vlahos and Rosie Taylor-Ritson) are about to come live with them to escape London in the war. That’s when the magical Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) appears, to make Mrs. Green’s life a little easier, but mostly to teach the five kids five lessons.

If you’ve seen the first Nanny McPhee film, you know what to expect: adorable entertainment for the whole family. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang does not disappoint at all. Quite to the contrary, it might even be more spectacular and even sweeter.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

[Somehow this film, too, slipped through the cracks in my trying to get this blog up to speed. I saw it in July, I think.]

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the 6th movie in the Harry Potter series based on J.K. Rowling‘s book of the same name. It was directed by David Yates and stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael GambonAlan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, David Thewlis and Jim Broadbent.

[SPOILERS for the WHOLE SERIES after this point.]

Plot:
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in his sixth year at Hogwarts (school for wizadry). He finds a mysterious book that belonged to the half-blood prince and the notes in it help him star in Prof. Slughorn’s (Jim Broadbent) potion class. At the same time he works together with Prof. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to find out more about Lord Voldemort and his weaknesses.

The Half-Blood Prince is definitely the weakest of all the Potter movies so far. The plot’s all over the place, things happen you can only understand if you’ve read the books and HOLY SHIT! they spoil the seventh book/movie. What the hell?

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Movie-Mania

Ok, my last two posts were about movies, this one will be, too, but as I won’t have time to go to the cinema for at least until Tuesday, I guess, next time you’ll read something else. Probably about what I’m reading now (Siegfried Lenz – “Die Deutschstunde”, Tad Williams – “Otherland: Mountain of Black Glass”, Angela Baron & Michael Armstrong – “Human Capital Management”), probably not.

Anyway, yesterday I went to the cinema, again. My partner in crime: K. Maybe she will wake from her blogging coma to post about the movies we saw yesterday because they were really good. Made up for the two bad ones I saw before.

To not keep you on tenterhooks (I love that word) anymore: We saw “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” and Becoming Jane.

Mr. Magorium is just wonderful. Although there was a slight technical difficulty (after the advertisement we just got a black screen for about 10 minutes), it definitely was my highlight of the week. I laughed, I cried, I watched the colours and the lack of colours with fascination and I saw the saddest stuffed animal ever (even though K. claims to have seen an even sadder one – I can’t really believe it). Eric, the little boy and hat collector (played by Zach Mills), is sooo cute (I wonder why jug ears are cute when a boy is 12, but not anymore when he’s 22…). Never heard of Jason Bateman before (though every time I see/hear the name Bateman I have to think about American Psycho) but he completely convinced me as the accounting mutant, especially in the scene where he plays with Eric in his room. Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman play just wonderfully and altogether it’s the perfect Christmas story.
Go and see it RIGHT NOW! (Ok, you may finish reading this post first…)

[Warning Spoiler!]
Becoming Jane
is beautiful. Sad, witty, well played. It gave off the vibe of her books, although the obligatory happy ending is missing. You keep on hoping until the end. Anne Hathaway plays well, very passionately. James McAvoy was as he always was – perfect actor, but I’m still not sure about his looks. (It was the same in Atonement – one minute I think that he’s oh-so-good-looking, the next I think he will be, when he’s older, and the next I think he never will reach the good-looking-status. [I just saw his picture on the imdb… oh my… he really should change that…]) The casting for the supporting roles was amazing – Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, and also the not so famous actors were perfectly chosen: Joe Anderson (I was sure I saw him in another movie before but after looking on his site, on the imdb as usual, I don’t think I have), Laurence Fox, Leo Bill and Ian Richardson.
Again, I laughed and cried and thought about what I would have done in her situation. *sigh* Beautiful.