There is 'Hope'

Is it possible that Hollywood filmmakers are suddenly cognizant of the increasing numbers of boomers retiring, newly rested, with time on their hands to go to the movies?

The year led off with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." What gave the film poignancy and sweetness was, to be sure, the superb cast of aging British actors. But also the genius of relocating said snow geese to a hotel in India, immersing them in a culture of such unexpected contrasts that India became a character in the story.

Where "Marigold" captures the extraordinary, "Hope Springs" focuses on the ordinary, on a married couple, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and Kay (Meryl Streep), married for some 30 years and in a relatively comfortable cul-de-sac relationship.

Their two children are gone, their affection for one another is subdued, absent anything other than the briefest peck on the check or a hasty touch on the arm. Arnold, who snores and has a bad back, sleeps in a separate bedroom.

It's Kay who feels a void in her life. She wants more from Arnold, emotionally and physically. Arnold is content to carry on in his remote way.

So Kay decides to push the status quo, signing them up for a week with a renowned couples therapist, Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), based in Hope Springs, Maine. It took a gunfight to get Arnold from Omaha to Hope Springs, but he agrees. And there they are, two sexagenarians, balanced on a precipice, Arnold a rock of resistance, and Kay timid but courageous, determined to bring about a change that represents the unknown.

Couples therapy can be incredibly dicey for the therapist because it is constructed from a triangle, and though the film barely alludes to the dynamics of triangulation, it's almost impossible for one such as Dr. Feld not to be pulled into a couple's dance, a tango that has been perfected over decades. There are years of small and not so small grievances and misunderstandings, more baggage than found in a hotel lobby, unpacked and scrutinized as the couple struggles to overcome years of routinized distance.

And it's here that the film, in a way, disappoints. Dr. Feld predicates all that he does on the premise that the path to overcoming alienation can be found through sexual intimacy, rather than suggesting that the way to genuine closeness is through honest, open conversation first. But then Hollywood has long ago decided that films about conversation will be the road less-traveled.

Hence, "Hope Springs" morphs into comedic drama, flirting with farce, edged with sadness as Kay and Arnold struggle to do their "let's-get-physical" assignments, to include a scene in a French movie theater that is both painful and hilarious but almost beside the point.

One week of therapy cannot make a dent in three decades of revetments carefully constructed out of love and disappointment and fear.

Ultimately, the truly nifty thing about "Hope Springs" is watching two master actors at work. Streep and Jones are glorious and therefore, "Hope" floats.

Expendables 2

If you're a geezer, it's really, really tough getting work in hardcore B-movies. But not if you're Sly Stallone. He collects all those old guys, so memorably hot in the early '80s, terminators ready to die hard, gets some really haute couture berets and Kevlar, tight T-shirts in de rigueur designer black, outfits this rusty band of brothers with state-of-the-art weaponry and voila! You've got a movie franchise. Kitsch on steroids.

So who is really surprised that "Expendables 2" arrived in a theater near you, the creaky cohorts back in full regalia, waiting for their Social Security checks to arrive so they can buy ammo. They've already got a plane, and they've got an assignment to find a cache of Russian plutonium, somewhere in Nepal.

But when young Billy "the kid" (Liam Hemsworth) is killed by the bad guys, who also steal the plutonium, well, it's now payback. Ah sweet revenge, a meal best served very cold.

Not to be excluded from the reunion of killers without remorse is Booker (Chuck Norris) and Euro-trash evil (Jean Claude van Damme) and ex-Gov. Arnold.

The formula: high body count, lots of blood splatter, a break for daily fiber and a nap, shoot the bad guys a lot, save the good guys, and make sure there is one woman, 20something, to balance out the geriatric brigade. Conclude with a right ending. Rinse and repeat.

Plan for Expendables 3.

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