*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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THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY REVIEW

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I wish it was done in 100 minutes. An easygoing feel good movie that is light on the drama but heavy on the cheese. Nice to look at but a little overcooked.

Enough food punnery! Let’s tuck in. It’s Chef meets Slumdog Millionaire in a nutshell.

The opening quickly establishes that from a young age, Hassan has a taste for flavour. A passion for food. It zips along, skimming past all the usual cliches as Hassan (Manish Dayal) tells the story of his humble upbringings from India to an uninterested stuffy French customs officer.

There are some predictable if endearing revelations as to why the family are now emigrating to France. “England was too bloody cold”, grumbles the talented Om Puri (East is East and my personal favourite The Parole Officer). An easygoing half hour has enough to keep me watching as the Kadam family reach the beautifully shot pastoral French countryside and open a restaurant directly across the road from Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) Michelin-starred eatery.

An inevitable war brews between the restaurants as they compete for custom. Mirren plays the stubborn snotty French hostess with aplomb. Even if she had her upper lip pumped (tut tut tut Madame). It’s all quite tame and silly, with the odd chuckle as Mallory buys all the food in the local market so the Kadams have to drive 50 miles to the next village, for example. Inconveniences and minor scrabbles is as far as the tone of the film will allow. Puri delivers some cracking one liners and is instantly love-able. A character you’re happy to see more of.

However, he doesn’t quite get the screen time or depth to really make as much of a impression as you first thought or expected. A shame for a talented actor who has proven successful with comedies. He works well with Mirren and they have good chemistry. However, not enough was made of the tension between them and it all wraps up so predictably.

Dayal plays the role of Hassan brilliantly and is a very charismatic lead. More to see of him in the future, methinks. Inevitably he falls for fellow chef, the adorable Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). For me, it all felt a little tame. Every obstacle felt more like a hiccup in which the family stumble but get back on their merry way with a cheesy grin.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some surprises along the way. Especially in the brewing spat. Moments that I thought this fluffy film may not have touched. An event that resolves itself all too quickly, which leaves little for conflict after. Hassan and Marguerite’s ambition for becoming a renowned chef soon puts the sprinklers on their spurning romance. However, you just know how that story is going to end.

Hassan soon has to deal with the stress and pressure of fame as his cooking soon boasts his reputation among the cooking elite. As much as we can feel and relate to Hassan’s frustrations, you can’t help but know and predict how it’s all going to pan out with everybody smiling by the end.

For me the length was questionable. It meandered along way too much like the picturesque lake that Hassan and Marguerite share their picnics. There just wasn’t enough being made of the story or the talented cast with their loveable characters to justify it. Amit Shah, an up-and-coming comic talent was wasted in his role as Hassan’s brother-in-law Mansur. He has proven how funny he can be in The Infidel and the ITV sitcom Honest. Restricted and unmemorable.

It just about keeps you going but the tone of the film indicates what film you’re in for. An easygoing, nicey-nicey film, which isn’t a problem BUT it’s a shame because it could have been a lot more hard hitting and done in less time and been better for it.

You just can’t help but feel that if Mirren wasn’t attached to this vehicle that it might not have made the big screen altogether. The ingredients enough to serve as a ITV TV movie, at best. Uplifting, certainly. Funny, so-so. Easygoing? Yes plus it makes you want to go to France. But drama, tension and intrigue, it seems that the chef Lasse Hallstrom skipped a few steps in the cook book.

3 (just) out of 5 for me.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM REVIEW

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Disney + Don Draper = one easygoing sports movie.

Jon Hamm takes the helm as J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball. From the opening speech with JB attempting to sign a major player to his firm, the pitch and delivery just reminded me of Mad Men and how much I will miss it after next year. It felt like a what if scenario. What if Don Draper left advertising and became a sports agent? Hamm has proven yet again that he can take the lead and deliver a charismatic performance.

I fear that this could be the beginning of Hamm being typecast to play more Draper-esque roles. But it’s early days and for some people, certain actors will always be certain TV or film characters. For now, it works. He carries the film where the story may drag or dip into familiar cliched territory. I mean at least this story was worth telling. I didn’t realise that this had only happened recently. The fact that JB channel flicks to Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition. A perfect metaphor for judging a book by its cover. The very lesson this film aspires to teach.

Alan Arkin is . . . pretty much playing Alan Arkin. Sleeping, moaning and whining about the curry he ate the night before. Some of his quips were funny but he has played this character before and so much better in Little Miss Sunshine. He definitely has been typecast. He grumbles and has the odd liner but disappears all too quickly to make a good impression. He inevitably reappears and justifies his character’s relevance. Only just. Bill Paxton played his part well and to be honest, there wasn’t enough of him but this isn’t his story. But my God, he has aged. The years have suddenly caught up with him. I know he was probably made up to be a little older for the role but yikes. Anyway, the main story is on our three Indian protagonists.

Pitobash as the eccentric Amit was brilliant. Scene stealing at every moment. From taking every little phrase literally;

Arkin: “He’s got juice”

Pitobash: “You want juice. I get you juice”

To his documentary film making catching all the things JB wouldn’t want in a PR video, he always brings a smile. Shuraj Sharma as Rinku with a unique stance for pitching baseballs and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as Dinesh play the parts brilliantly. At first, Lake Bell’s (What Happens In Vegas) character of the hot doctor lodger that rents JB’s outhouse bungalow was a little annoying and so predictable. However, Bell and Hamm manage to convey enough chemistry to stop it from spoiling too much of the fun, even if the outcome is so obvious. Aasif Mandvi (The Internship) was wasted in his role, bar one good joke about recruiting the only three Indians who can’t stand cricket. This did make it all the more interesting that the very pitchers they are looking for are field hockey and track athletes.

To be honest, the length didn’t really bother me. I normally complain about the wavering length and at over two hours, I thought there may have been more moments in which I would be glancing at my watch. Not so! The opening may have been slow burning but there was enough easy going humour, charm and story to get away with it. Director Craig Gillespie catches the hustle and bustle of Bombay perfectly and has a cheeky poke at their politics. “We don’t bribe. We simply bypass the busy system by offering a little money”, offers Darshan Jariwala’s incompetent but loveable aide Vivek.

The first hour allowed time to be spent on the character’s backgrounds and upbringings which gave them a more rounded dimension. It also allows for a compelling contrast when the lads are put up in a hotel and are lost in translation with an elevator and escalator. I expected a little more tension with Dinesh’s family with his strict father but an unexpected heart to heart surprised me. I also feared that the film would baffle me with baseball statistics and terms as I’m not a baseball (or sports in general) fan but they use only a few slang words which are easily explained.

However, it’s funny, easy going with a nice uplifting, if slightly abrupt, ending. A somewhat mish mesh of Jerry Maguire and Slumdog Millionaire. The cast work brilliantly together as their fractious relationship and unexpected union are tested as they work against the odds to prove everybody, and themselves, wrong that nothing is impossible. Awww. Nice stuff.

3.5/5 Certainly one of the better ones. Not without its imperfections but worth a watch.