Dark Shadows, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Headhunters, plus a Canadian bank robber and a headstrong mother

Judy Dench is one of seven seniors who experience India in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


Your choices are wide and varied this week. You can visit India with some Brits, re-live a cult TV show with Johnny Depp, catch a thriller from Oslo, watch a Toronto bank robber get caught or study a real-life mother who means well.

Also, notice that John Zaritsky's moving documentary about genetic disease, Do You Really Want to Know?, IS one of the films getting a repeat screening Sunday at the DOXA festival. The first one sold out. You can find out more at

And here's my list for the week:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  3 ½ stars

Dark Shadows  2

Headhunters   4

Edwin Boyd Citizen Gangster   3

Family Portrait in Black and White   4

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL: Seniors aren’t well served by the movies, especially at this time of year. Yet, here’s the third film for them in the last month, this one the most directly targetted of them all and the most fun. Seven Brits, all retired, decide to live their last years in India where the brochure for a hotel “for the Elderly and Beautiful” lures them. They’re all stock characters but I’ve been on a British tour and they’re a near match for the people I met there. Maggie Smith is a casual bigot chasing a deal on a hip replacement. Tom Wilkinson used to live there and has a history to reclaim. Penelope Wilton won’t eat what she can’t pronounce and nags her passive, ex-civil servant husband, Bill Nighy. Chief among them is Judy Dench, a widow with money problems and a mind ready to be revitalized by bustling Rajastan. 

The hotel is falling apart. It’s young operator (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire) has little money, big disputes with his mother over the woman he loves but an optimistic mantra: “Everything will be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, it is not the end.” That’s the sunny tone of this film. It suffers through trite story lines, broad comedy and stereotypes but still manages to endear with its warm heart and fine acting, pass along quite a bit of droll humor and give us a lot of the real ambiance of India. Not too deep, tourist level. John Madden directed; his third time with Judy Dench in the cast. 3 ½ out of 5

DARK SHADOWS: This is the 8th film Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have made together. Some have been great (Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands). Some not so much (Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd). This time they’re reviving a vampire and a cult TV series. Depp plays an 18th century gent and playboy who is turned into a vampire by a spiteful witch, buried alive by a raging mob and dug up again by a construction crew. It’s now 1972 and he’s in for major culture shocks.

Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham Carter play the dysfunctional descendants he moves in with. And Jonathan Frid, the Canadian actor who originally played the same role in the TV show and died only three weeks ago, appears in a cameo. I couldn’t get to the preview (I was required at my daughter’s wedding rehearsal) but a friend who did go tells me: “I liked the production design, cinematography, but the story line was a complete retreat of many similar films and the vibe just felt like they should have been playing it more over the top. Chloe Grace Moretz was excellent as the sullen teenager … The rest of the cast just seemed sort of bored, Depp tried hard to look interested but it's just a really boring film. Not much fun to be had,  some great one liners that we've seen in the trailers/tv spots and a great 70's rock/disco soundtrack but overall it's just bland.” (Scotiabank, Fifth Avenue and suburban theatres, including the brand new Landmark in New Westminster)  Sounds like a  2 out of 5

HEADHUNTERS: Crime thrillers from Scandinavia are hot these days, possibly as one critic surmised we think peaceful people live there with a dark side that we are drawn to uncover.

That’s certainly there in this tale by Norway’s Jo Nesbø. He’s so big now that his books no longer carry a sticker declaring him "the next Stieg Larsson." Judging by this superb film he’s a master of the fast-and-forward-moving plot. Even if it doesn’t always make complete sense.

More in New Movies

Disney wildlife times two, a blast at American politics and a traumatic teen drama

Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

More streaming ideas take you to Brazil, low-life China and two Jesse Eisenberg films

As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?

Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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