Film reviews: Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | Big Miracle | The Descendants

Alistair Harkness casts his eye the rest of this week’s cinema releases

BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (12A)

A big-name cast of national treasures can’t prevent this broad comedy about British pensioners finding themselves in colourful India spoon-feeding its target audience in a way its characters would surely disapprove of. With Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

BIG MIRACLE (PG)

BASED on a true story from 1988, this race-against-time, save-the-whales adventure is filtered through the dull perspectives of characters that aren’t interesting to start with. Chief among these is the local news reporter (John Krasinksi) who breaks the story and promptly develops a crush on the more glamorous national news reporter (Kristen Bell) dispatched from LA – much to the chagrin of his ex, a Greenpeace activist (Drew Barrymore).

THE DESCENDANTS Descendants (15)

George Clooney plays a Honolulu-based real-estate lawyer, all set to sell off a valuable piece of land and make his family rich when an accident leaves his wife in a coma. Director Alexander Payne subtly undermines Clooney’s surface charm and handsomeness to better exploit the things that really make him an attractive actor and screen presence.

EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE (12A)

Relentlessly middlebrow filmmaker Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) directs this horribly precious adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about a whimsical boy’s search for meaning in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks that killed his father. Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow, Sandra Bullock and newcomer Thomas Horn star.

HUNKY DORY (18)

A coming-of-age drama in which kids learn something about themselves by putting on a show, this melancholic 1970s-set Brit-flick offers a rawer, more down-to-earth approach than the slick, ruthlessly snappy likes of Glee. It stars Minnie Driver as a drama teacher putting on a David Bowie-inspired rock-opera version of The Tempest. Director Marc Evans embraces the genre clichés in a way that reinvigorates their truthfulness.

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (PG)

Rubbish sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, this desecrates another Jules Verne book by transforming it into a corny effects movie.

THE MUPPETS (U)

Kermit, with the help of Jason Segel, Amy Adams and a fuzzy little chap named Walter, gets the gang back together to put on one last show, which provides endless opportunities for grin-inducing gags and musical numbers which are almost deliriously delightful. The ensuing chaos is all amusingly self-aware, though Kermit’s eternal optimism prevents it ever feeling flip. The anarchic end result is about as joyous as a film for all the family can be.

RAMPART (15)

Meditative movie boasting an intensely committed performance from Woody Harrelson as a corrupt patrolman beginning to pay the psychological toll for his many misdeeds.

SAFE HOUSE (15)

Denzel Washington is on entertaining form as a CIA traitor on the run in this Bourne-esque thriller that’s much better directed and acted than it its generic and way-too-predictable plot deserves. Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga co-star.

The Woman in Black (12A)

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a London lawyer in 1904 sent to attend to the sale of a Yorkshire estate. Arriving in the village of Crythin Gifford, he’s treated with hostility by the locals, but perseveres with the job he’s been sent to do – even as he begins seeing the titular spirit, and children drop like flies around him. The story offers few surprises, but it’s big on atmosphere and a few scenes are properly unnerving.