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Now Playing: 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

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BY NATHANIEL ROGERS

YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION

Though some media pundits scoffed last weekend when THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL opened for business the same weekend as The Avengers (previously reviewed) it turned out to be a savvy move. Where else were the spandex averse or Downton Abbey addicts to go? (Rather perversely, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel denies Abbey addicts additional showdowns between Lady Crawley and the Dowager Countess; Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith's stories don't intertwine much) In fact, this British retirees in India dramedy should have opened even wider since they had the nation's second best per screen average and could have cracked the top ten with far fewer theaters than the other movies.

But enough about money. Hotel manager Sonny  (Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel) is a dreamer, not a businessman. His family is losing patience with his dream and time is running out for the hotel. It's running out for the guests, too, as they near the end of their lives. The name of Sonny's establishment is actually “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for Elderly and Beautiful People”. The movie's title lops off those last five words which only proves Sonny's business model's point: he believes that countries don't care about their elderly so he'll outsource old age. Come to India and live out your autumn years!

Would you rent a room from Dev Patel? MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

Dev-welcome

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NEWS: Judi Dench, Incest, Kevin Costner, Mitt

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Road Dame Judi Dench battles enroaching blindness:

She confessed: “I can’t read scripts any more because of the trouble with my eyes.

"And so somebody comes in and reads them to me, like telling me a story.

"It’s usually my daughter or my agent or a friend and actually I like that, because I sit there and imagine the story in my mind."

... "The most distressing thing is in a restaurant in the evening I can’t see the person I’m having dinner with.

“Actually, what I miss are people corpsing on stage.

"I know there might be something going on but sometimes I can’t see it and that infuriates me as I think I’m really missing out on something.”

Road A second man has been arrested for the beating of Brandon White:

MoragneDorian Moragne turned himself in to Atlanta police custody late Friday afternoon with his attorney close by. According to police, he will be charged with robbery and aggravated assault.

... Moragne, 19, is one of three men police have been seeking in the beating of Brandon White, since video footage of the Feb. 4 incident appeared on the internet.

His surrender makes him the second suspect in police custody. Christopher Cain, 19, was arrested on Feb. 11. Cain, who was being held in the Fulton County jail, is charged with aggravated assault, participation in a criminal street gang, robbery by force and burglary.

Police are still seeking a third man who has not been identified.

Road At Slate, Dear Prudence dispenses good, sane advice to incestuous gay brothers, and good, strong ammunition to slipperyslopers.

Road On Hail Mary candidates and Mitt's impending Michigan disaster.

Road On Frank Vandersloot, the skeezy billionaire and Mormon extremist who's one of Mitt Romney's biggest backers:

Anyone who is the national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign deserves probing, substantial scrutiny. That’s equally true of someone who continues to use their vast wealth to influence the outcome of our elections and our most inflammatory political debates. And it’s certainly true of someone who has made it a regular practice of threatening journalists, bloggers and activists who shine light on his political and business practices.

Road If you've ever wondered about exploding pits of pig poop, read this.

Road "Without Betty Dodson, America would be a lot less good at masturbating." Not that she thinks we're very good at it anyway.

Road It's time to clean up our space junk.

Road Dlisted covered Whitney's funeral:

We're coming up on hour three of Whitney Houston's "Going Home" memorial and I don't know how my eyelids are still able to open after sitting through Kevin Costner talking for 35 million minutes about himself, himself, himself, himself, Jesus, himself, himself and how he himself put Whitney in The Bodyguard when nobody else wanted her in it. Oh, and he talked about himself and how Whitney is auditioning before God now (or something like that). The dozens of people taking a nap with their eyes open should've been the choir's cue to sing Kevin off the stage, because DAMN. Dances with Woofs was shorter than Kevin's speech.

Road Someone somewhere will find a way to blame this on the gays. From the Times:

After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.

... Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.

One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.

“Marriage has become a luxury good,” said Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.


Watch: Daniel Craig Dons Drag For Women's Equality

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In honor of tomorrow's International Women's Day, actor Daniel Craig appears as character James Bond -- and then as Bond in drag -- for a two-minute video that highlights the plights women face daily, such as unequal pay, lack of access to education and the increased risk of domestic violence.

Hats -- or is it wigs? -- off to Craig for helping raise awareness of this event. And if you weren't sure, yes, that is Dame Judi Dench doing the narration.

See how Craig looks as a lady, AFTER THE JUMP...

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REVIEW: Notes on Notes on a Scandal

Notes[[SPOILER ALERT]]

Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and screenwriter Patrick Marber all received Golden Globe nominations this morning for the psychological thriller Notes on a Scandal which opens later this month and which I was lucky enough to see last week.

The film is an adaptation of Zoe Heller's novel What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal and tells the story of desperately lonely and nosy schoolteacher Barbara Covett (Dench), who lives alone with her cat but desperately yearns for the company of another woman. Her yearnings fall into that unclear place between simple companionship and physical intimacy, though the latter remains mostly unspoken.

When Sheba Hart (Blanchett) is hired as the new art teacher at her school, Barbara's curiosity is piqued. She makes it her business to know secrets about people, particularly her colleagues at the school. Covett immediately makes a deliberate push for Sheba's friendship, pulling her under her wing as a friend and confidante. It's a relationship that soon becomes one-sidedly obsessive and smothering, a fact that is not lost on Sheba's husband, who notices Sheba's increasingly frequent absences from their home in Islington.

Barbara dislikes the fact that her new companion must often go off with her family, so when she discovers that Sheba has become sexually involved with one of her cocky, alluring, underage male students (played pitch-perfect by newcomer Andrew Simpson), Barbara sees an opportunity to seize Sheba's friendship once and for all by using the dangerous affair as a bargaining chip for blackmail.

Dench gives a charged, riveting performance that is as strangely sympathetic as it is frightening. The film plays brilliantly with themes of isolation, desire, and secrecy as Barbara's insidious and sociopathic strategies to obtain the companionship of Sheba run parallel with Sheba's naive and dangerous romantic flings with the athletic, sexually insatiable boy. They're both out of control in their own way, and the threat of exposure is the gunpowder that waits to blow everything apart.

I haven't read the novel, but if it's as much a page-turner as Marber's beautifully-paced, insightful (and very funny at times) screenplay, there's a lot to be said for it.

My final note is on the Philip Glass score, which lends the film a dread and excitement reflective of the urgent performances turned in by Dench and Blanchett. Highly recommended.

Follow the jump for the full trailer.

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