THE BEST EXOTIC
Marigold Hotel (2012)
By Neshmeen Faatimah
Truth be told, I initially wanted to watched this movie because pretty boy Dev Patel was in it and therefore didn't have very high expectations from it. But as life is full of pleasant surprises, this light-hearted comedy turned out to be the most refreshing thing that has happened to me in a while.
The story surrounds a group of seven British retirees who - attracted by a glossy brochure for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful” - head to Jaipur, India, hoping for a luxurious life of leisure. Upon their arrival, the group discovers that the hotel is not the lavish Indian palace they'd seen on the brochure but an ancient dilapidated wreck, owned by Sonny (Dev Patel), an empty-headed but lovable kid filled with optimism and big ideas. Although the discovery brings about dismay and disappointment to the group, the experiences that follow lead to a deep and welcomed transformation of their lives. The narrative is quite good and there is plenty of room left for both the storyline and diverse characters to develop.
Director of Shakespeare in Love, John Madden earned back his spot in the limelight with this movie after a long period of not-so-successful films. The superb acting resulted from Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie being on the cast - all senior accomplished and honoured actors, some of them with Academy Awards and Golden Globes to their names.
Though sometimes the film feels a little over the top with fluffiness - the characters are a little too melodramatic sometimes - with the really long run time of two hours. But this can be forgiven for its ability to lift your mood in a depressing day. This is definitely a recommended movie to watch.
Other comedy-dramas with underlying thought-provoking and
50/50: a comedy based on a real-life story of the struggle of a young boy who finds out he has cancer. (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Yes Man: A guy whose life was going nowhere decides to say 'yes' to everything for an entire year to see where it takes him. (Jim Carrey)
Eat Pray Love: After getting out of a painful divorce, one woman realizes how unhappy her life is and sets out on a quest to find herself across Italy, India and Indonesia (Julia Roberts)
MUST WATCH TV
Six actors who have managed to fail at their career spectacularly end up working as an incompetent team of cater waiters for a company called Party Down. Group members vary from being slightly jaded about acting to full-on crazy while they run along Los Angeles for their small-time gigs. This is basically the plot for this unconventional comedy, which may come across as depressing or just plain mean but is sincerely funny at times.
Henry (played by Adam Scott, Ben from Parks and Recreation) is a one-hit-wonder who got famous for his lines 'Are we having fun yet?' in a beer commercial and since then, his acting career has failed to take off. Frustrated after his umpteenth failed job hunt, he decides to quit acting for good and joins Party Down catering services with his friend Ron, the overenthusiastic team leader who regards his job with immeasurable self-satisfaction. Other than these two, the group consists of Casey, the natural rule breaker and Henry's consequent love interest; Kyle, a goodhearted but dumb actor waiting for his big break; Constance (Glee's Jane Lynch) who has managed to remain unjaded despite everything and Roman, a hardcore sci-fi writer who hates the world with as much venomous passion as it's humanely possible.
Despite what you might initially think, Party Down is nowhere near as bad, the acting being far, far superior to any other shows in the category. Every episode follows their stints in different events and shows how they manage to completely dysfunction as a group so effortlessly. The dialogues are snappy and witty, loaded with sarcasm.
Despite getting rave reviews from critics, the show's ratings failed to pick up, the network refused to renew the contracts and the lead actors started leaving. Jane Lynch left the show after being cast as Sue Sylvester and Adam left for Parks and Recreation leaving the show's chemistry unbalanced. And what could have been a promising comedy show met its untimely demise just after two seasons.
Overall Party Down is an entertaining show with decent acting and a gloomy undertone. If you enjoy watching people do what they really don't want to, it might be just the show for you. I liked it, but probably wouldn't re-watch it. There have been talks of a movie, maybe then.
MUMFORD & SONS
By Sarah Nafisa Shahid
Emerging out of the West London Folk scene, Mumford & Sons is already a household name in the folk rock genre with their debut album 'Sigh No More' reaching number two in the UK Album Charts.
The band took its name from the more popular front man Marcus Mumford (husband of Carey Mulligan from 'Drive') and conveys an image of an archaic family business with the partnership of Ben Lovett, Country Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane as the other band members. Their music sounds like a refined touch of classic folk rock with the involvement of various instruments such as banjo, dobro, accordion, double bass, etc.
Their popularity grew rapidly not just in London but around the globe and soon young adults were singing to lyrics like, “Cause I have other things to fill my time, you take what is yours and I'll take mine.” The entire album of 'Sigh No More' sort of sounds like a 12-track acoustic collection but that is what keeps the simplicity of folk music true in the songs. Tracks like 'I Gave You All' and 'Awake My Soul' ripple through the heart with mellow romantic lyrics yet maintaining a non-soppy profile. A good show of the dobro and excellent guitar plucking can be enjoyed in tracks like 'Thistle & Weed' and 'Winter Winds'. But it was their single 'The Cave' which gained most fame amongst listeners and critics alike and was nominated as Best Rock Song and Song of The Year in the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Mumford and Sons have released only one album till now and are working in the studios for their upcoming album scheduled to be released soon during the year. Overexposure may result in the band seeming a little dry with a repetitive style but that happens with most musicians. Mumford & Sons honest lyrics and acoustic sound is a perfect combination for fans of the Folk Rock or the Indie folk genre. In addition to that, the sudden mid-length dramatisations in their songs due to the exotic instruments are heartening and the band gives listeners the feel for English country ballads. A fitting band choice for anyone with an interest in folk genres.
IF YOU LIKE MUMFORD AND SONS, YOU COULD TRY:
Laura Marling: Also an associated act of Mumford and Sons, this solo artist possesses a powerful yet subtle voice which gives folk music a bold turn.
Noah and The Whale: Another English folk band from London. They have a cheerful tone to their music like in the song 'Give A Little Love'.
Ratings: Story: 8/10 Gameplay: 9/10 Graphics: 7/10 Overall: 8/10
KINGDOMS OF AMALUR:
Hailed as one of the most exciting RPG games of this year, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning's launch was largely marred by the arrival and continuing success of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim last year. The fact is Kingdoms of Amalur probably has the best gameplay mechanics of any “traditional” Role Playing Game out there.
The game starts off with you as a fresh corpse in the ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil. You are cast into an arcane artifact called the Well of Souls, where you are magically re-animated. In the process, you are allowed to create and mold your character to your wish using the extensive character creation process. Once you make your way back to the world of the living again, you are granted special powers, including the ability to control your fate, along with a “Reckoning Mode” where you can rip through your enemies and pick up Fate points really quickly.
The fluidity of the gameplay is a massive surprise for a game that calls itself an RPG. You can switch between primary and secondary weapons in an instantaneous hit of a button, cast spells at lightning speeds without having to cycle through endless menus, change direction and swerve/roll/charge in the middle of battle with incredible ease. It feels more God of War than anything else really.
The action focused gameplay doesn't mean this isn't a proper RPG, though. The story and the “epic” settings are ever present, while interactions with NPCs (Non Playable Characters) are on par with most RPG games out there.
The graphics is brilliant if you favour a fairytale-esque environment over the dark and gritty ones, like the frozen expanse that is Skyrim. The flowers and trees and the sky are way too bright; the characters and the general populace seem to have sprung from a Terry Pratchett novel; the dialogue feels a bit Disney-ish; and the quests are understandably over-heroic. It feels like a single player World of Warcraft.
But it all works once you're a few hours into the game. Just don't expect to like it straightaway after playing the brilliance that was Fallout 3 and Skyrim. The musical score feels a little underwhelming at times, but when the action starts it's the last thing on your mind.
The game is fun to go through, but occasionally you'll fall into a lull and story progression will seem like a chore due to the kind-of repetitive sidequests. But you definitely shouldn't sleep on this game, because you'll be missing out on a game that has enough guts to go against the current stream of RPG games [i.e. dark and gritty] to bring you something different. So give it a shot, you'll find it's worth the 90 hours of total gameplay.
Interesting Fact: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning's story was crafted by prolific New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore, so you know you are going to find something to like about the story.