Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Woman in Gold, and Danny Collins

Speaking of twenty years back, as I did in my last post – the actor Al Pacino was 55 years old in 1995. Helen Mirren was 50. Judy Dench was 61, Maggie Smith was 61, and Richard Gere was the youngest of this group. Twenty years back, he was just 46 years old.

I mention these five because in the last six weeks I’ve seen all of these folks in films. Pacino has appeared in two films that I’ve seen within this period. So the question I’m asking now – concerning actors and actresses is – do they get better as they get older?

On March 10th, I was scheduled to fly from Orlando, Florida to Oslo, Norway. The flight was basically a red-eye, or overnight flight, and not wishing to drive too much at night, I got to Orlando in time to take in a late afternoon movie before heading for the airport.

The film I saw that night, and will be one of the three films I’ll review in this post, was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,=. This film was a sequel to the popularly received The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which came out in 2011. Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Richard Gere were the headliners in the sequel as was Dev Patel. By the way, in 1995, Patel was just 5 years old and a school child in Harrow, London, England.

While I won’t say that the sequel (I’ll call it 2nd Best Exotic for short) was a failure, it wasn’t – for sure it was less of an artistic success than the original. Dench, Smith, and Gere were marvelous as was Bill Nighy. But the film has to take 2nd place behind the original because of the way Dev Patel’s role was written.

To be fair, Patel played the role with a lot of zest. It was as if he relished playing a character who had previously been a sweet kid, a hotelier who was a hard-working and striving young man who got his hotel to go from a near derelict ruin to a successful venture in the original. But in this, the sequel, he changed into an obnoxious lout who was also rude and indifferent to any thing except his own goals which was to expand by adding a second hotel.

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Time Out of Mind with Richard Gere Opens the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival

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The 17th Sarasota Film Festival opened on Friday night with Oren Moverman’s film Time Out of Mind. Moverman was on hand – that’s him on the red carpet being interviewed, as well as Ben Vereen who was in the film as a supporting actor.

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I parked on Main street in downtown Sarasota around 5:45 PM. I was looking at about a ten minute walk to the venue – the Sarasota Opera House. The Red Carpet had been called for 5:30.

I milled around for a bit ,taking in the sights, the Red Carpet, the television crews, and the glamorous crowd. I also was feeling the buzz of excitement that was in the air.

But the theater was expected to be sold out, and my Press Pass and Press Comp Ticket would get me in for a balcony seat so I did not tarry outside for too long..

Mark Famiglio, the President of the SSF Board of Directors made an introductory speech, as did spokespersons from SRQ Magazine and SRQBacklot.com and SNN. Then Mike Dunaway, the new creative director for the Festival came out to rev up the crowd, to thank his staff, as well as the army of volunteers who help make the festival work.

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Finally, he introduced Oren Moverman, the film’s director who then introduced Ben Vereen.

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The Sarasota Film Festival 2015

The Sarasota Film Festival will start in about two weeks. Beginning April 10th, the festival opens its doors for the 17th time. Celebrating the art of film making while showing the best in new cinema in the categories of narrative features, shorts, documentaries, and even kid friendly film fare – the festival is a key event in the world of movies.

Tonight I attended the Press Kick-Off Party held at the fabulous Selby Gardens. on S. Palm Avenue in Sarasota.

So,e millimg about merged with socializing - an all in one photo op

After a lengthy session of milling around also known as socializing, imbibing drinks, and dabbling in finger foods,

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others engaged in marketing until Mark Famiglio took the stage to welcome the gathered folks and then he turned the festivities over to Mark Dunaway, the new SFF Creative Director.The full schedule of more than 180 films was released tonight with the Sarasota folks in attendance, being the first of any people in the world to get the news. Dunaway told us that when Indie Wire called him today, they were told to call back tomorrow. When the New York Times called today, they were also told to call back tomorrow. The announcements today came out just a few days after the festival’s Opening and Closing Night Features were announced.

The Opening Night film, to be screened on April 10th at 6:30 PM at the Sarasota Opera House at 611 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota will be Time Out of Mind. This is a story of a homeless New Yorker who will struggle to find stability and purpose to his life, all while attempting to restore and rekindle a relationship with his estranged daughter.

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Arbitrage

Let’s see – it’s been 30 years since Richard Gere as as young Zach Mayo got the daylights kicked out of him by his D.I. Sgt. Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.) near the beginning of the film, An Officer and a Gentlemen.

And it’s been 30 years since he carried off his dream woman, a factory worker named Paula, played by Debra Winger to end the same film.

At that moment, Gere’s Mayo may not have been anything more than a man in love. But as an actor he’d grow into more mature and adult roles. By 1990, Gere was partnered with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

In this film he was already a Master of the Universe – meaning he was a man who could have anything, or anyone he wanted. Until he ran into Roberts as Vivian Ward, a woman who’d play for pay. Only this time it wasn’t just about money.

Except at the box office where this film took in a very healthy 460 Million plus.

Fast forward to 2012, and we now have Richard Gere as Robert Miller in the new film, Arbitrage. In this one, Miller controls a hedge fund worth a ton (billions) but with an inexplicable $400 million hole in one of its i-beams. Miller lives in a Gramercy Park mansion in New York.

His trophy wife  Ellen is played by Susan Sarandon, and he has two adult children and grandchildren.

His  beautiful daughter Brooke, with her own MBA, is played by Brit Marling. Brooke is the CFO of Miller’s firm. In Miller’s own words, after all – he had it all  – I am a patriarch.

Brit Marling as Brooke Miller

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The Double

The Double starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, and Martin Sheen is only another of the recent spy/assassin thrillers that always seem to attract viewers. However this film seemingly came and went last October with most of us pretty much unaware of it. The numbers were pretty grim. It played at only 45 theaters in what you could call the the classic limited release, and stayed in release for just 21 days. Blink and you missed it. Total gross was $137K. This is a number that is so low and underwhelming – that it is shocking.

Makes you wonder how a film with at least two well known film actors, and one well-known TV actor, could make so little money. Before we get into specifics – don’t watch the trailer because the Grand Reveal is in the trailer. In the film, it comes so early on that the major portion of the suspense is killed off way, way too soon.

Whatever happened to set the stage, let out the line, hook the viewers, then have things work towards a conclusion? Here’s the hook: have one US Senator assassinated in such a way, that this killing bore all the trademarks of a legendary Soviet assassin called Cassius who until this killing, had been presumed to be dead. Since The Jackal had already been done, they needed a new name; hence Cassius.

But they brought back the same guy, who portrayed a similar role in a previous film, to go after a deadly assassin once again in this film. Right – Richard Gere played Declan Mulqueen, the hunter in pursuit of The Jackal. Now he plays the retired CIA agent Paul Shepherdson, called out of retirement by Tom Highland played by Martin Sheen, to work the case to bring Cassius down once again. Watch out that you don’t get typecast Mr. Gere.

According the Gere’s Shepherdson – Cassius was dead because he had shot him in the chest. But Sheen’s Highland says, “He survived.”

Geez. Really?

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Brooklyn’s Finest

The fact is that these cops, in Antoine Fuqua’s latest passion play, a film called Brooklyn’s Finest are not Brooklyn’s Finest. They’re conflicted men, one of whom is trying to get through each day, one day at a time, doing whatever it takes to make it to the next day, and nothing more. Another is trying to get ahead, financially, one drug bust at a time. And the 3rd, an undercover cop, is simply trying to get out, to regain his life, and the sooner the better.

They’re cops working in one of Brooklyn’s most deadly and crime infested precincts, the 65th. The center piece for this story is a housing project that consists of 18 buildings, and 15,000 residents, all of whom are never more than a few yards away from death: be it a bad shooting by the police, or a war being conducted between rival drug gangs, or the violence that can erupt in any corner bodega or convenience store which are no more than tinder boxes where cultures can clash,  serving as veritable staging areas for brutal violence.

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