*NEW* LION REVIEW *NEW*

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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

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*NEW* CAROL REVIEW *NEW*

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Two superb performances reprieve an overhyped and overlong affair.

Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).

I think this was another case of hype being a hindrance. I don’t know what I was expecting BUT somehow it didn’t quite deliver.

The pace was far too long. I didn’t mind watching the slow burning romance blossom BUT that there wasn’t much else. Romance movies were never my forte and the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped.

I mean it in the best way because their relationship seemed so normal. With the legalisation of gay marriage and the rise of movies focusing on the gay rights movement and gay characters, it has marked a progressive change in perception.

All I saw was a normal relationship between two people. Of course, what helped was good characters and great acting that allowed you to buy into it. Blanchett and Mara were superb. They had fantastic chemistry and really made the relationship work.

The meandering pace really didn’t help things. It dipped in and out. This could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. The 50s controversial context gave it the much needed spice and things took a nastier turn when Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights) came into the mix.

You felt for Carol as Harge battles the court to take her daughter away. Fighting for full custody on the grounds of breaking a “morality cause”. His anger and obsession to control Carol was daunting stuff and allowed for some tense moments. His volatile mood swings and drunken stupor created a threatening menace. But beneath all that bravado was a man scorned.

Carol is soon forced to make a decision to face the “moral” implications and have her dirty laundry about her previous relationships aired in the courts at the risk of losing her daughter or give up the love of her life. It was interesting watching Carol’s relationship with her previous lover Abby (Sarah Poulson – American Horror Story). A future glimpse of what could lie in store. A lonely woman haunting a big house.

The closing 30 minutes picked up the pace. The love scenes were dealt with tactfully BUT it’s not as if both actresses have been shy in front of the camera before. Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) played the confused Therese to perfection while Blanchett proved once again why she deserved that Oscar gold (Blue Jasmine) in a fantastic little scene as she pleaded with Harge one last time.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography was very unflattering. It added a much needed realism to the piece BUT was far too grainy and just terrible to look at. Carter Burwell’s musical score created the perfect mood setting and worked really well with the scenes.

I also didn’t expect to see Cory “The Riddler” Michael Smith from Gotham in a surprising supporting role.

Carol was definitely worth a watch to see two fantastic actresses at their best BUT I needed a little more story told in a shorter pace. There were a couple of things I didn’t expect BUT it still ended with the same end result. Shame.

2.5/5

*NEW* PAN REVIEW *NEW*

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I fear this one might get panned.

Even with a talented cast and impressive special effects, this latest offering on the Pan myth should still walk the plank.

12-year-old orphan Peter (Levi Miller) is spirited away to the magical world of Neverland, where he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.

The opening zipped along. It was easygoing and got straight to business. We watch Peter endure life at the Dickensian orphanage. Battling the ever cantankerous Mother Barnabas. Played to perfection by Kathy Burke. Not enough of her if I’m honest.

Levi Miller delivered an impressive debut for a young lad. There was the odd moment where certain lines and a couple of the scenes hindered with his delivery BUT nothing that can’t be fixed with a few more movies.

And it wasn’t long before our young hero was plucked out of his bed and taken to Neverland. This part of the story I’d seen before in Once Upon A Time and it did feel like a retread for me. I was disappointed that the war time setting wasn’t used to its full potential.

It did allow for a fantastic chase sequence with The Ranger pirate ship being pursued by the Royal Air Force. It was all a little too OTT for my liking BUT the pace and effects kept me subdued. For now.

It was great to see Nonso Anozie finally getting more screen time. It was just a shame that after a memorable introduction as Bishop that he was pushed into the background.

For the first half hour, I was pleasantly surprised. BUT the problems really popped up when Peter arrived in Neverland. The strange musical number in the mines didn’t set the right tone for me.

A bunch of miners bellowing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Ramone’s Blitzkrieg Bop felt like something that should have been in Moulin Rouge. Things improved slightly with the introduction of Jackman’s Blackbeard. But that soon spiralled downhill.

He lapped it up and was incredibly camp. A perfect panto villain. BUT that was also the problem. He came off far too comical. His bi-polar mood swings and OTT delivery soon killed what little tension there was around the iconic villain. I understand that it’s a family movie BUT I was more afraid of the CGI’d Sid from Toy Story than this chap.

Speaking of iconic villains, Garrett Hedlund as James Hook was terrible. Don’t get me wrong, Hedlund delivered one of his most liveliest performances. He looked the part with that shark toothed smile. BUT he got on my nerves. He just shouted his lines (which were weak) and every time he appeared on the screen, I instantly wished him gone.

Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) was perfectly cast as Smee. He fell short of ol’ Bob Hoskins from Hook BUT he gave it a go and delivered the odd chuckle. Rooney Mara did her best with the role of Tiger Lily, the native chief’s daughter.

The only problem with Mara’s character was that it was spoiled by an incredibly hammy love subplot with Hook. It was cringe-inducing. Hedlund even shouted during those bits and all!

I know I said the animation was fantastic. And for the majority of the film, it was. Not quite sure whether it was worth the 3D investment. BUT there were a couple of things that didn’t look right. The Neverbirds looked terribly cartoony. They looked like something that should have been on the cover of a cereal box.

The lovely Cara Delevigne popped up in a badly CGI’d cameo as a mermaid. I don’t know why they just didn’t have her swimming about in a mermaid costume instead (What?).

Amanda Seyfried had the easiest job going as Peter’s mother. Anyone could have played her. The final twenty minutes were entertaining enough as Tiger Lily takes on Blackbeard BUT it was so rushed that it ended quite abruptly.

It was a fresh take to see Hook and Pan start out as friends BUT we didn’t see any real conflict and by the end of the film, there wasn’t any indication of their rivalry brewing. Just a nauseating exchange that they will be friends forever. Awww . . . Yuck.

Things were inevitably left open for another. BUT if I’m honest, it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get me to check out that one. It’s was too corny, frantic and didn’t even explore the mystery of Neverland.

It was watchable BUT memorable? If anything this made me want to dig out my VHS (What are those?! Showing my age now) of Hook.

Enough to keep the little ‘uns at bay for a couple of hours BUT it falls short of any of the other versions.

2.5/5