Alan Dee’s guide to new movie releases: Safe House, One For The Money

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FANS of the Carry On series will recall the cheap and cheerful comedy brand’s take on package holidays, when a clutch of English stereotypes headed off to Spain to find that their hotel hadn’t been finished, they didn’t like the food, life was full of problems but they somehow made the best of it.

Fast forward 40 years and the world is a much bigger place, which is why The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, while essentially going over the same ground with an all-star cast, switches the action to India.

Shakespeare In Love wallah John Madden directs long in the tooth luvvies like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Celia Imrie, along with Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, in what would like to be a heartwarming comedy.

It’s the film version of a hit book – Deborah Moggach’s These Foolish Things, if you don’t recognise the title – and it’s always good to see actors of a certain age getting leading roles, even if it does always seem to be the same ones.

But this is a curate’s egg of a film, good in parts but failing to convince – yes, India looks vibrant and intriguing, the big names do their stuff, but despite their best efforts it fails to convince.

> Very few stars these days can lend class to any old rubbish just be being there. Denzel Washington is one – however daft the story, he somehow brings a bit of glitz and gravitas to the set.

In Safe House he teams up with flavour of the month Ryan Reynolds and the deservedly ascendant Brendan Gleeson in an action thriller set in South Africa.

Reynolds is a rookie CIA agent in charge of a safe house who finds himself playing host to Washington’s ‘most dangerous man in the world’ – a rogue agent who has been selling secrets to the highest bidder. The bad guys soon move in to rub him out before he can tell all he knows, and the pair go on the run. Bang! Kapow! You won’t have time to think as the action unfolds, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

> The top talking point about One For The Money must be this: OMG, Katherine’s gone brunette! Hollywood’s top blonde but essentially anodyne rom com star Katherine Heigl is unlikely private eye Stephanie Plum, the heroine of a whole series of comedy thrillers so the potential for a franchise is clear. Think My Cousin Vinny with a chick instead of a chap in the lead role, and no courtrooms.

> Films with animal stars seem to be all the rage these days, but even in The Artist they don’t get the name role.

That’s not the case in Red Dog, a family movie about a stray who sneaks in and steals the heart of a hard-bitten Australian mining community.

Again there’s a book behind this, written by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis De Bernieres, but it’s billed as a true story filled with earthy Oz humour, romance and tears. It has all the ingredients required to make it a sleeper hit, expect it to still be picking up punters long after the Marigold Hotel has shut its doors.