*NEW* LION REVIEW *NEW*

lion

Heartbreaking drama. 

A five-year-old Indian boy (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. 

He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

I was concerned that this film might stumble into Slumdog Millionaire territory, especially with Dev Patel at the helm. 

The opening established a similar premise; two brothers committing petty crimes to provide for their poverty stricken family.

However for the first hour, I was completely hooked. It was gruelling, gripping and shocking as Saroo travelled 1600km from home.

Lost and confused with nowhere to go. You really felt for the little man. 

I didn’t realise that there were different dialects in India (Woe is me) with the Hindus struggling to understand Saroo’s Bengali.

Sunny Pawar delivered a stellar debut. I’m surprised he didn’t get a nod over Patel. Patel didn’t even appear until the hour marker!

It takes a lot for a child actor to catch your attention and make you empathise and root for them. 

Most of the time, kid actors just get on my nerves and overstay their welcome. Thankfully, Pawar had nothing to worry. 

The film even raised awareness about the horrible living conditions that orphan children endure. 

Sleeping on the streets, raiding bins for scraps, fearing the police will arrest them or even worse that strangers will take them for their bidding. 

An unsettling encounter between Saroo and a ‘friendly’ man sent shivers.

I couldn’t believe the hypocrisy within the “adoption agency”. 

Beating children and forcing them to learn English. They even lied to Saroo about searching for his family. Devastating.

I was really invested in this amazing true story as Saroo moved to Australia. 

Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) were brilliant as his new adopted parents. 

Supporting the poor boy as he tried to make head or tail of the new situation.

A harrowing contrast was made when the Brierleys adopted another child. 

Highlighting the true horrors of the agency as the psychologically scarred Mantosh failed to make the same transition as Saroo. 

Not every child as lucky to escape as you’d hope.

It was only when the film flicked forward 25 years later that the story lost momentum.

Award nominated turn? I wasn’t convinced BUT Patel still delivered a sterling turn.

It was nice to see Rooney Mara (Carol) play a normal role. I’m used to seeing her appear in some strange affairs. 

I felt she was a little underused. However, this wasn’t her story.

The pair had good chemistry and the film bumbled along at an easygoing pace as things seemed to be looking up for the fully grown Saroo. 

However, a relic from home soon triggered old memories from his past. Ones he thought he had forgotten.

The meandering middle act was my only niggle. It tested me.

You could empathise with Seru’s depression as he shut himself away from his friends and family. 

Feeling guilty knowing that every day his real brother and mother could still be looking for him.

The haunting nightmares, the visions of his brother’s face. 

BUT there was only so much Google Maps browsing and crazy dream sequences I could muster before I was screaming, “Get to India. Find them!”

I know he was trying to remember his village from repressed memories across a 1600 km landscape BUT the pace really was a killer.

I wanted more interaction with the family. There wasn’t enough Nicole Kidman for my liking. 

I loved the dynamic between Sue Brierley and Saroo over the years. That scene when she revealed the reasons for adopting him were heartbreaking. I wanted more of that closeness.

You really felt for her (and Mara’s character) as she tried to understand what Saroo was going through.

However, the emotional finale was heart-ending to watch as Saroo finally returned to India. The closing credits really hit home with real life footage.

The pace could have cut by a good 20 minutes BUT it was still a brilliantly acted and rewarding drama worthy of your attention. 

3.5/5

Advertisements

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL REVIEW

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-UK-Quad-Poster-slice-1024x487

These old dogs need to learn some new tricks if there’s going to be another one.

As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny (Dev Patel) pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel.

Now, I loved the first film. It was fun, easy going, a charming little affair with a fantastic cast. When I heard that there was going to be another, I was excited. Hardly surprised after the reception the original received.

However, this outing seemed to suffer from the dreaded sequelitis. The charm offensive just about pulled it off to make it watchable. BUT I was left wanting more. A phrase I’m using far too often lately.

The opening didn’t really build my hopes up as Patel’s Sonny and Dame Maggie Smith’s Muriel barter with a boardroom of corporate drones about financing the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Smith’s rambling and raving about how Americans never serve tea properly didn’t really deliver the laughs. If anything, it annoyed the hell out of me and was dreadfully clichéd.

Look, I’m English. (What?!) Tea has always been a recurring joke but come on, we’re better than that! I still had a little guilty chuckle but when the gag kept popping up; it soon died of death.

Patel played Sonny well. But I found him a lot more irritating this time round. However, what did keep me watching was Sonny and Muriel’s relationship. A surrogate mother/son dynamic that made for hilarious and heart-warming viewing.

I felt Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle’s story line was a little too silly. I was interested in Norman and Carol’s relationship as the pair struggle to adapt to a monogamous lifestyle after playing the field for so long.

BUT all I got was a subplot that was taken out of a bad Carry On film with a drunken conversation between Norman and a taxi driver unwittingly setting up a “hit” on his partner.

I only really got some enjoyment or drama out of the pair in the closing moments. BUT it was resolved far too quickly for my liking. A shame.

Bill Nighy. A comedy legend and a talented actor in my eyes. Disappointing. He just seemed to dither and normally it worked to his advantage but I found myself getting bored of him. The whole tour gag with a young Indian lad feeding him information with a dodgy wireless ear piece has been done time and time again.

His subplot only got interesting when Penelope Wilton made a surprise appearance to upset the apple cart.

It was a surprise that Douglas (Nighy) and Evelyn’s (Dench) characters were still courting and not properly together. Inevitably a spanner is thrown in the works as Evelyn is given an opportunity to work again.

This is where it killed things for me. Dench’s absence was missed. Merely reprieved with little scenes in which we see her and a market trader bartering and dealing with the local community.

Celia Imrie’s love triangle story line was a little nothingy. Her inevitable brewing romance with the chauffeur that drove her to the two men she was seeing was predictable but easygoing.

However, she seemed to be pushed further into the background. If not for a memorable quote upon Gere’s arrival, “God have mercy on my ovaries”, I wouldn’t have known she was there.

Patel’s business venture ambitions and impending wedding certainly spiced things. Sonny’s best friend’s questionable friendship with his fiancee certainly ignited some much needed tension and drama into the mix. BUT to the same old infuriating and predictable results.

While we’re talking about predictable; the red herring hotel inspector subplot was naff. Richard Gere did his best and played the mystery man well BUT it was all so hokey. Sonny “pimping” out his mother to try and improve his review got the odd chuckle. BUT Tamsin Grieg and her shady American accent just didn’t work.

Hardly spoilerific but what was the purpose of David Strathairn’s role? He had the easiest job going. A waste of an incredibly talented actor.

It wasn’t all bad. Maggie Smith was on fine form as usual. Her sniping and complaining delivered the better moments. One perfect example being when Evelyn shares some wonderful advice with her and she simply looks at her, baffled and asks; “I’m sorry. Were you talking to me?” Priceless.

The ending certainly left things open and wasn’t without a few surprises (Don’t worry. No spoilers). And dare I say, I had a little tear.

I was able to walk out with a cheeky little grin after seeing the geriatric icons jumping up and down at the wedding reception without a care in the world.

BUT it just didn’t carry it off as well as the first. A film I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with much more.

Maybe I went in with too high an expectation this time. It was certainly watchable and there were laughs to be had, “Why die here? When I can die . . . there”.

A mixed bag of spice and naff tobacco for me. Tobacco being the stodgy story lines.

2.5/5

CHAPPIE REVIEW

Chappie-Movie-Poster

This didn’t make me a happy chappie.

BUT it wasn’t all bad.

Chappie is basically a What If film.

What if Johnny Five was alive and hanging around in a South African ghetto with Die Antwoord?

Your reaction to that statement will probably be the one you have when you see it.

For me, it was a return to form (of sorts) for Neill Blomkamp.

After the drab affair that was Elysium, I feared the worst for Blomkamp. Especially after rewarding us with such a promising debut and sleeper hit, District 9.

I’m still waiting for them to return, Mr Blomkamp!

So what’s it all about? In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

Hardly original. BUT for the first 30 minutes, I was switched on and hooked.

The inevitable talking head documentary intro that Blomkamp has grown accustomed to was unnecessary.

The quick introduction of the police bots and “Who’s Who?” kept things moving. Getting you straight into the thick of it.

The bots just reminded me of Robocop. Even their voices sounded like Peter Weller as they apprehended suspects. Granted, these upgrades were a lot more mobile.

The animation and special effects during the action sequences were fantastic.

BUT it’s not long before we’re introduced to a group of irritating street thugs and one unlucky police bot.

Die Antwoord? Where have you heard that name? They are responsible for the hit or travesty that was Enter The Ninja. Here’s a crash course for you.

Shudder.

It was a big risk to give a music act two of the more meatier roles. I respect Blomkamp for choosing South African talent BUT surely there were other contenders?

Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that one couldn’t act and the other’s character was so deluded and irritating, you were praying for Hugh’s Moose to crush him. (Wait, what? Steady now! I’ll get to that reference in two paragraphs).

The maternal moments between Chappie and Visser were done well but when it came to delivering any real lines with conviction, she fell short.

Ninja was such an unlikeable character. His deluded gangster ego was laughable. I’m sure that was Blomkamp’s intention but he was just so irritating. If he wasn’t yelling at Chappie, he was beating up Dev Patel.

Brandon Auret’s crime lord Hippo (A few animal names being thrown about) was ridiculous. It didn’t help that he was subtitled throughout the film. Even worse when you could understand every word the bloke was saying.

He played the nutter well enough. I think there was only one thug that deserved subtitling and that was because he was actually dipping in and out of English.

Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank) was good as the appropriately titled character American.

The idea that a sentient robot is being raised by surrogate parents in the form of a trio of dysfunctional street thugs is hilarious.

It certainly had some funny moments. BUT also some shocking ones. His lessons on the world were interesting and well executed. However, if you were expecting something more serious and intense, you may be left wanting.

Blomkamp uses recurring stalwart Copley to provide his vocal gravitas to the mechanical messiah. And he is brilliant.

Chappie’s design looked great and his expressions were incredible. It was just the little things that made it for me. The little matrix dots that form eyes on Chappie’s visors, his mismatching ears made up of various parts, the irritating bling around his neck.

I liked that he had to learn like he was a child. His cowering behind walls, watching He-Man and being read story books were nice little touches.

Dev Patel played the part of Chappie’s maker Deon well. It was just annoying when his character seemed to keep disappearing for good chunks of the film. Merely popping up to reiterate exposition or when everything seemed to kick off.

Sigourney Weaver isn’t looking too shabby at 65 and she played the corporate drone as well as she could. BUT all she did was pout and moan at either Deon or Vincent. A waste of a talented actress.

Bar one cracking line delivered with Weaver’s conviction (Burn it to ASH!), you realise by the closing credits that her character was pointless.

Hugh Jackman, uh, well. He did his best. BUT his character was such a tool (Putting it mildly) that I couldn’t take him seriously.

All he did was monologue. Providing a running commentary of everything he was doing while donning the Steve Irwin look. “Shall I execute this program? Yes, I will. What is he doing? Where is he going? I’m going to follow him”.

Alright, mate. Inside voice, yeah?

He was so comical. It was cringeworthy. I was more afraid of his robo counterpart. The Moose. It was ED-209. Only it could fly and shoot missiles. So stairs won’t be a problem any more.

It’s racy, action packed, funny and the closing moments certainly surprised and disappointed at the same time.

In typical Blomkamp fashion, the ending leaves things a little . . .

District fans will know where I’m heading with this. If you don’t, I’m not going to spoil it. Some clever little twists certainly surprised me BUT it still came to an abrupt end.

The problem that Elysium had was that it was too serious. Chappie was too comical and at times for the wrong reasons. District 9 had that balance perfectly.

This hasn’t put me off the rumoured Alien reboot that Blomkamp is supposed to be directing.

If you’re expecting super serious bot on bot action, I recommend Terminator or Robocop. But if you’ve read my review and are still intrigued, then give it a go. It ain’t all bad.

3/5