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“Marigold” Not the Freshest Daisy in the Bunch

The guest register at the Exotic Marigold Hotel gets thicker this week, while several Oscar winners — and Oscar-worthy efforts — arrive on home video.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Turns out chemistry isn’t everything. Alhough this sequel reunites virtually all the original stars (including Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy), and though they prove just as delightful this second time around, the script adds precious little to the first installment. Richard Gere is predictably charming as a new guest, but Dev Patel, as the perpetually overwrought hotel owner, wins Actor We’d Most Like to Evict.


Unfinished Business
Two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson, who apparently had nothing better to do one weekend, costars with Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco (brother of James) in this manic, often coarse comedy about three small businessmen on an ill-fated trip to Europe.


Grey Gardens (1975)
The worst excesses of reality TV can be partly blamed on this landmark documentary about two elderly women — a cousin and an aunt of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — living in the squalor of their formerly grand Long Island home. Unlike the generations of reality chroniclers who came next, however, directors Albert and David Maysles don’t paint Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale as victims; instead, they let the women tell their own story, show how they live, then leave them in peace. This restored version is in limited theatrical release.


Still out there:

50 Shades of Grey
We’re not supposed to laugh out loud at a movie that features beautiful young people having kinky sex, right? Yet that’s precisely what happens almost from the moment we’re introduced to billionaire bondage boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his oh-so-willing submissive partner (Dakota Johnson).

American Sniper
Director Clint Eastwood’s film about Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, barrels along like a Humvee across the desert, hitting its targets with deadly accuracy before exploding with unexpected emotional power. (FULL REVIEW)

Black or White
In this corner, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Kevin Costner as an L.A. lawyer fighting to keep custody of his mixed-race granddaughter. And in the opposite corner it’s Octavia Spencer as the child’s paternal grandmother, convinced the girl would be happier living with her black relatives. Best reason to watch? Two Oscar-winning pros at the top of their game. (FULL REVIEW)

The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Alan Turing, the man whose peculiar genius helped the Allies crack the Nazis’ Enigma Code during World War II. The appealing supporting cast includes Allen Leech ( Downton Abbey), Matthew Goode ( The Good Wife) and, as a barrier-smashing female mathematician, Kiera Knightley. (FULL REVIEW)

Kingsman: The Secret Service
This stylish British spy adventure focuses on the exploits of a group of young and impossibly attractive recruits. It’s a blockbuster adaptation of a graphic novel, seasoned by veterans Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill and, as a lisping villain, Samuel L. Jackson.

Maps to the Stars
Despite a great cast — including Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson — director David Cronenberg’s satire of Hollywood is as phony as the culture he attempts to skewer. ( FULL REVIEW)

The Rewrite
Isn’t it nice to see Hugh Grant back in a lighter-than-air rom-com? His has-been Hollywood screenwriter takes a job teaching screenwriting at an upstate New York college; Marissa Tomei is the single-mom student who, we suspect, will capture the handsome professor’s heart. Wandering around blue-collar Binghamton, N.Y., Grant resembles Mr. Darcy lost at the London docks.

Focusing on a pivotal three-month period in 1965, this stirring historical drama follows Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) as he lays the groundwork for his epic civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Oyelowo uncannily channels King’s appearance, manner of speech and simmering charisma. (FULL REVIEW)

>> Get entertainment and dining discounts with your AARP Member Advantages.


Still Alice
Julianne Moore delivers a performance that sweeps us up, then blows us away. She’s a 50-year-old college professor, coming to terms with her early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Based on Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel. (FULL REVIEW)

>> ‘The Graduate’ — and Other Essential Boomer Movies

Reese Witherspoon gets down and dirty as Cheryl Strayed, the troubled young woman whose solo 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail became the subject of her bestselling memoir. In what could have been a thankless role, Laura Dern etches a tragic portrait as Strayed’s abused mother. FULL REVIEW


New on DVD, Blu-Ray and Video on Demand:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Did Michael Keaton quit the  Batman series 22 years ago just so he could one day make this dreamlike film about an actor who walked away from a smash superhero franchise? If so, the wait was worth every hour. ( FULL REVIEW)

Catch this for its true tale of Olympic-wrestler brothers (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) who settled into a tragic relationship with a wealthy benefactor (Steve Carell, barely recognizable behind that understated performance and prosthetic nose). (FULL REVIEW)

The Humbling
A dream team ( Al Pacino, director Barry Levinson, screenwriter Buck Henry) delivers a dark and often funny look at a fading actor who rages against the darkness — and the darkness rages back. He thinks a fling with a friend’s daughter (Greta Gerwig), who happens to be a lesbian, will straighten things out. Of course, it merely complexifies his life.

St. Vincent
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Intergenerational Film
Bill Murray’s grumpy Long Island loner agrees to look after the young son of his new neighbor (Melissa McCarthy). Knowing that field trips to the racetrack and a local bar were involved, would you subject  your kid to Murray’s supervision? (FULL REVIEW)

The Theory of Everything
In this superbly acted and lovingly directed biography, Eddie Redmayne plays astrophysicist Stephen Hawking from his carefree college days, through his heart-rending descent into Lou Gehrig’s Disease, to his ultimate triumph in the realm of science. Felicity Jones costars as his first wife, Jane, who married him despite his rapidly advancing illness and raised their three children.   (FULL REVIEW)

J.K. Simmons — that bald, beaming guy we’ve loved for years in so many movies and commercials — finds the breakout role of a lifetime as the Mentor from Hell to a young drummer at a high-stakes music conservatory.  (FULL REVIEW)

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