Film Review “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

Starring: Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith
Directed by: John Madden
Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hours 2 mins
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The irony about being a film critic is that, sometimes, I’m the one that gets criticized for what I’ve written. I know what to expect when I recommend an Adam Sandler film. Sue me, I’m a 13 year old boy in an old man’s body. But this afternoon, as I was preparing this review, I saw a criticism I never would have expected. While going back to see what I had rated the original “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” I noticed a comment had been left. Basically it read:

There is NO WAY English senior’s immune, digestive system can handle Indian foods, whatsoever. Yet again this is nothing but another nonsensical story set in a place which Western senior-transplants haven’t ANY possibility of surviving. (sic)

Wow! Someone sure had a lot of time on his hands. As well as a much better understanding of the British digestive system then I do. Anyway, I thought I’d share that. And now, on with the show.

When we last left our over enthusiastic innkeeper Sonny Kapoor (Patel), he had just convinced a group of elderly British citizens to call his burgeoning hotel “home.” Today we find him visiting the United States, speeding down the historic Route 66 with the barb-tongued Mrs. Donnelly (Smith) by his side. They meet with the owner of a large international hotel chain (David Strathairn) in the hopes of having him finance Sonny’s dream of another hotel and the beginnings of an empire. Sonny is soon due to marry the lovely Sunaina (Tina Desai) and he wants a new hotel to be a wedding gift to his bride. Sonny and Mrs. Donnelly return to India assured that an inspector from the hotel chain would visit to see how Sonny runs his operation. But when more than one new guest shows up to register for a stay, it is obvious that the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can use some expansion help.

Cleverly written and expertly acted, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a welcome, sunny treat during these final weeks of winter. Bolstered by Patel’s exuberance and a first rate cast of British acting veterans, the film sometimes returns to the same situations that occupied the first film but with enough charm that it survives on its own merits. Joining the returning cast is Richard Gere, a recently divorced man looking for a quiet place to write a novel. He is smitten with Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey), who is unsure how to accept this Western man’s advances. As for the returning residents, we find Evelyn (Dench) now gainfully employed while Douglas (Nighy), continues to silently pine for her. And of course, Mrs Donnelly is as feisty as ever, delivering such lines as “just because I’m looking at you when you’re speaking doesn’t mean I’m paying attention to you,” with the timing of Groucho Marx. These stories, and others, once again intertwine as the wedding day gets closer. Gere is especially good here, doing what he does best, romance. Even at age 65, Gere is, as Sonny points out, “so handsome that even I question my own sexuality.”

Director John Madden, who also helmed the first film as well as “Shakespeare in Love,” has reteamed with writer Ol Parker to bring old friends back together and introduce us to new ones. Not sure if there’s a third story on this hotel, but it’s certainly one I’d be more than happy to visit.


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Rick Hornyak talks about his new CD

What makes a hard working union man in Pennsylvania suddenly decide to chuck everything aside and head to Texas? That’s one of the things I made sure I asked Rick Hornyak when we spoke. A singer/songwriter with a great gift for lyrics, Hornyak is currently embarking on one of several short tours planned for 2012 in support of his new CD, “Marigold.” I recently talked to Rick about his music, his passions and, of course, why Texas?

Mike Smith: How long had you been writing songs before you decided to pursue music as a career?
Rick Hornyak: I guess I started writing songs when I was about 19. I used to work in a steel mill and that kept me pretty busy so there weren’t a lot of songs from age 20 to 27, when I finally had a dozen or so that I was kicking around. When I was 27 I moved to Austin (Texas) and I’ve written a lot more since. So probably when I was around 19 or 20 years old was when I started coming up with original songs.

MS: How was it adjusting from quiet, sleepy Pennsylvania to wild and crazy Austin?
RH: I have to tell you it was really terrifying for the first six months. I really am from one of those middle-of-nowhere, one traffic light towns in Pennsylvania. I was afraid of the city. My parents had lived in Pennsylvania as did their parents and we grew up thinking that the city was dangerous. I was always afraid I would end up in the bad part of town or that something was going to happen to me. But as soon as I learned the names of a few main roads I discovered I could get where I needed to go. I’d have to say it was terrifying, but exciting, at the same time.

MS: “Marigold” is your first full length CD. Is there a deliberate tone to the album? You have a nice collection of ballads mixed in with some up-tempo tunes.
RH: We actually sent around a pre-release survey to friends and family and people we already knew who were familiar with the band. We sent them mixes of the songs and tried to get an idea of the order to put the songs in…what were their strong points. We went through about 30 of those. I’m so happy that people took the time to fill them out. To listen to the songs and fill them out. The song “See This Through” was a very popular one. Another song that people were really leaning towards is “Right in Front of Me.” As for any kind of theme, I’ve recently just discovered that I was reaching a kind of inner peace when I was writing. I fell in love again after ten years of sort of being single and a little bit bitter. My life was starting to get a little more stable. I wanted to start taking care of my body more…to be a little less self destructive. So that’s really the kind of general tone…it captures a time of my life when I did a lot of reflecting.

MS: I’m glad you mentioned “See This Through.” It’s one of the songs that I really took notice of on the CD. I’m a fan of great lyrics and that song definitely fits the bill. Were there any musicians that influenced you when you were growing up…made you say “Wow, this is what I want to be!”
RH: I have a really diverse music sense because I listened to everything growing up. When I was a kid I listened to 50s and 60s pop records that my parents had. I’ve loved music, as I’m sure you have, probably since I was 5 years old. It made me want to dance around the living room. I grew up listening to Tommy James and the Shondells…the Supremes…the Beatles. Those were my parent’s records. I don’t know how much of his actual style I picked up, but Bob Dylan, when I was in my early 20s, he showed me the power of what a songwriter could be. The way that somebody else’s words can make you think that song was written just for you. I’ve had people tell me that about a couple of my songs and it’s so flattering. The song we were just talking about…”See This Through”…a friend of mine was inspired by the song to put her bar up for sale and move to Hawaii. She gathered enough money for a couple of months, got an apartment and got a bartender job. She let her employees run the bar until it sold. I kind of got off the question (laughs)…I’d definitely have to say Bob Dylan was a real influence.

MS: You’re on the first leg of several short tours this summer. Do you have any plans to record again soon?
RH: I’ve got some songs in the works. All of the new candidates are here. A few that are done and about a dozen or so in the refining process. That’s something that’s tough to do when you’re on the road and touring. You’ve got so many things to do that you often lack that three hours you need to go in and try to write every day. But that’s what I’m doing in my free time. I’m trying to make sure that I’ve got a lot of new material ready. I feel I need to push myself. I want to top my next record in my own head. That’s how I felt with “Marigold.” I felt I had taken a big step. That I was getting better. I could hear it and that’s a great feeling for a song writer.

Rick concludes this leg of his 2012 tour with a stop Sunday night, May 13, at Ernie Biggs in Kansas City. For more tour information, or to order his new CD, go to


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CD Review: Rick Hornyak “Marigold”

Rick Hornyak
Produced by: Rick Hornyak
11 tracks
Running time: 45 mins

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It was about three songs in, on the second listening of Rick Hornyak’s new CD, “Marigold,” that I put my finger on how to best describe his sound. The Austin, Texas resident, by way of Clarks Mills, Pennsylvania, was spinning beautiful stories that made my mind wander. And then it hit me. Hornyak’s music is best described as Mike Nesmith (his solo stuff (“Different Drum”), not his Monkees years) meets Jimmy Buffett. Like Nesmith, who hailed from Houston, Hornyak has a smooth, folksy delivery that emphasizes the moods of each song. Like Buffett, his lyrics tell amazing stories. He is also an accomplished guitarist, starting of songs like “So Many Times Before” with some fancy guitar work. To me the standout song is “See This Through,” delivered so sincerely it could have been part of Bad Blake’s concert set in the film “Crazy Heart.” Other notable songs are “Foolish Love” (good for slow dancing) and the cheerfully delivered “The
Monkey Song.”

Track Listing:
1. So Many Times Before
2. See This Through
3. Right in Front of Me
4. Cigarettes
5. Homesick Blues
6. Don’t Hide Away
7. Foolish Love
8. Door to Your Heart
9. Far From Home
10. The Monkey Song
11. Moving On (Without You)

Film Review “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

Starring: Judi Dench, Dev Patel and Bill Nighy
Directed by: John Madden
PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 3 mins
Fox Searchlight

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This time of year brings many surprises to the multiplex. This season’s first surprise is a charming film packed with a who’s who of some of the greatest actors to ever come out of England. The film is called “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and it’s a fine diversion from the super heroes and animated fare that fills theatres in the summer months.

The story concerns a group of Brit senior citizens looking for a way to keep their autumn years comfortable. Evelyn (Dench) is recently widowed and learning that her husband has left her in a considerable amount of debt. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a retired judge who still regrets leaving the love of his youth. Douglas and Jean (Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are a couple of civil servants trying to rekindle the sparks of their marriage. These people and others are drawn to a brochure they are sent from India advertising the opulent Marigold Hotel. Soon the group is off to Jaipur, hoping to spread their retirement money out longer in the Indian economy. However, when they arrive they discover that the hotel is not as fancy as pictured. The phones don’t work, the faucets drip and not all of the rooms have doors. However, inspired by the passion of the hotel’s young owner/manager Sonny (Patel) the palace they imagined begins to take shape.

Skillfully acted by a group that has, between them, 14 Academy Award nominations and 3 Oscars (not to mention the one Bill Nighy should have won for “Love Actually”), the film is the greatest assemblage of British talent since the last “Harry Potter” film. As each person begins to deal with their new surroundings, the story enfolds, enveloping each of them with the magic that Sonny is trying to restore to his family’s hotel. Also along for the trip is Mrs. Donnelly (Maggie Smith) who, rather than wait on a rather long list for a hip transplant, takes advantage of the cost and availability of Indian medicine and two seniors (Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup) still looking for the excitement that love brings. There are secrets to be discovered, of course, and that is what makes this rather exotic trip worthwhile. Patel brings the same youthful ambition here that he displayed in “Slumdog Millionaire” and more then holds his own against his older co-stars. On the technical side, the film is brilliant with the colors and sights of India, delivering a much more nuanced vision of the country then the one featured in many films. Director Madden keeps the pace moving briskly, helped mightily by a witty script by Ol Parker, based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, “These Foolish Things.”


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