LAST year’s surprise international hit was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Saturday, 8.30pm, Showcase), the British comedy-drama set in a run-down Indian hotel. It struck so many chords with mature-age audiences that studios predicted a minor boom in films targeted at baby boomers with no particular interest in Iron Man 3 or Scary Movie 5. So expect more chatty, calm, contemplative movies in the style of Quartet or Performance. The Marigold Hotel is run by Dev Patel, the youngest and cheeriest character in the film. Directed by John Madden and based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, it’s a film where the characters count for everything. And what a mix: racist, gay, snobbish, widowed, retired, all a little bit doddery. The charm and folksiness struck me as a bit too calculated but, with an ensemble cast including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, it proved a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.
Millions (Sunday, 6.30pm, M Family) was a strange film for Danny Boyle. After a long preoccupation with themes of darkness and despair — Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later — he switched to a more playful mode in this gentle, humorous and wholly beguiling fable about two boys who discover a hoard of stolen cash and don’t know what to do with it. Nineyear-old Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) and his younger brother Damian (Alex Etel) have moved with their father into a housing estate in northern England when a bag full of banknotes mysteriously drops from the sky. Should they hide it, bank it, spend it, tell the cops? It’s soon clear that Millions isn’t just a comedy but a sharp take on money and greed and our obsession with wealth and property. In that respect we can call it a typically serious Boyle film.
One of the finest US political dramas, The Ides of March (Monday, 8.35pm, M Masterpiece) follows rival candidates contesting a Democratic presidential primary in Ohio. George Clooney directs a top cast and plays a popular state governor who looks like the frontrunner. But can we trust the assorted liars, schemers and vote traders who run the rival campaigns? Ryan Gosling, as the governor’s trusting aide, comes across as a naive idealist. It seems that staff members are up to their necks in bribery, illicit sex and secret deals. It could happen only in America, surely?
Many rate Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 film Paths of Glory (Monday, 11.10pm, Fox Classics) the greatest of all anti-war films. It was suppressed in France until 1975 because of its depiction of French military folly and duplicity. Kirk Douglas plays a French officer who defends three soldiers unjustly court-martialled for cowardice after a military debacle in World War I. Stark, uncompromising and brutally realistic, the film ends unforgettably when a group of soldiers relax in a tavern and hear a German girl sing.
(M) ★★★★✩ Monday, 8.35pm, M Masterpiece
(PG) ★★★ ✩ Sunday, 6.30pm, M Family
(M) ★★★★★ Monday, 11.10pm, Fox Classics