*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

*NEW* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

starwarsposter

Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

bb-8-work

 

Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

Maz_Kanata_VD

 

I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)

THE WATER DIVINER REVIEW

16498554596_2c0bd23284_o

A simply divine debut from Russell Crowe.

Engaging, heartfelt and definitely one of the better films I’ve seen.

So what’s it about, mate? An Australian man (Russell Crowe) travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.

Not the best title for a movie. And I could hear a few people asking, “Why is it called that?”

Russell Crowe plays Connor, a farmer who has a gift for finding water.

Through a series of flashbacks, we delve into his background as he fights the bureaucracy and red tape to find his three missing sons who never returned from the horrors of Gallipoli.

An impressive debut from a talented actor. I had high hopes and the film certainly delivered the majority of them.

The cinematography was fantastic. Not bad for a directing debut if you can get Andrew (Lord of The Rings) Lesnie on board.

The beaches of Gallipoli and the Turkish mosques were captured beautifully.

The pace was perfect. I was engrossed and switched on for the 112 minute length. All helped by a great cast, great acting and a good story.

Jai Courtney added a sincerity to the role of Lt Colonel Cyril Hughes. It made for a refreshing change from the endless hard man roles he seems to do these days. It was good to see him actually act. Even with a bad moustache.

Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace/Oblivion) was very good. I may have a little screen crush on her but she played the vulnerable widow well.

There was good chemistry between her and Crowe which made their inevitable pairing a little more endearing and watchable.

Dan Wyllie was very good as the snobby bureaucrat that was Captain Charles Brindley. Forever a thorn in Connor’s side.

An all too familiar and painfully accurate representation of the British influence on the Ottoman Empire.

His rant about the significance of a soldier’s death really hit home.

Yilmaz Erdogan was superb as Major Hassan. I don’t know how much of the film was dramatized BUT I couldn’t believe how this man still wanted to help Connor after his treatment by the ANZAC soldiers.

His answer; “He was the only father who came looking”. Remarkable.

I could feel my loyalties divided as we watch Hassan see his country being torn apart. The figures about the loss of life on both sides were shocking.

Cem Yilmaz and Erdogan also made a memorable pairing as the Turkish captives. It was great to see them as fully rounded characters and not just as one dimensional representations of “The Enemy”.

Dylan Georgiades managed to do something that not a lot of child actors do and that is to not annoy the hell out of me. A charming performance.

In between Crowe’s challenging ordeal to honour a promise, we follow Kurylenko as she must fight against the binds of reputation and family. Defiant to accept her husband’s death by the community and ignoring the advances of her polygamous brother-in-law to re-marry.

To be honest, I would have been happy to see Kurylenko’s subplot fleshed out a little more but it certainly got the point across.

The battle sequences were hardly groundbreaking but they still captured the brutality of it all and made for some heartbreaking viewing.

Russell Crowe was (to be expected) fantastic. A charismatic lead that delivers yet again.

However, it’s not all perfect.

Isabel Lucas’ (Transformers) character was a little unnecessary. Apart from being the local prostitute staying in the hotel, she didn’t do much else or contribute anything to the story. A wasted character if I’m honest.

The flashbacks were key and added to the story. However, I found the heavy use of CGI spoiled a riveting sequence in which Connor saves his boys from a sandstorm.

Luckily, the endearing relationship between Crowe and the boys managed to reprieve the terrible special effects.

There was also a scene in which a secret rendezvous at a Turkish bath with Connor, Cemal and Major Hassan came off unintentionally comical. The celebratory song and dance number was a little too cheesy for my liking.

Some may also argue that Connor’s sixth sense is a little hammy and farfetched. There isn’t any explanation into how Connor can find water or why he has the recurring dream sequences in which he can see his son alive.

It’s not that sort of film and sometimes you just have to believe and hope. A parental instinct is a bond in itself that goes beyond explanation. I didn’t let that spoil the film for me. If anything, it added an extra depth.

As the film came to a close, there were some revelations along the way. However, I don’t want to tell you too much about the story. Some moments were predictable but they still hit home and made for a teary eyed finale.

It’s not without its imperfections BUT it surprised me that considering this film was a commemoration of a battle 100 years ago, relationships between Greece and Turkey are still rocky as hell.

I would certainly recommend you take the time to invest in this story of one man’s promise to bring his boys home.

A riveting, heart-breaking and promising debut.

Bravo, Mr. Crowe.

3.5/5

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES REVIEW

new-poster-for-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes

Yawn of the Planet of the Apes? Not quite but a questionable running length does more damage than the simian flu in what could have been a visually stunning tour de force of a prequel/sequel/prequel sequel

I fear this film will split people. Not that it hadn’t from the get go with a Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy but some will be in awe of the incredibly visual work to even care that beneath the surface there isn’t a lot of story and in terms of human character development, there is zilch. I really wanted to this work and it does . . . in sorts. A mixed bag.

Visually stunning. Incredible animation. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) and Toby Kebbell (Rock ‘N’ Rolla) are fantastic as Caesar and Koba. Their expressions and movements are impeccable. You can actually suspend disbelief and become engrossed in the beautifully animated habitat. I know that the monkeys are at the fore front of these movies but it seems that no time was spent on providing us with human characters that we should care about. It is all clearly defined in the trailer; good guy, bad guy, good ape, bad ape.

The opening sequence in which we see the apes hunting and communicating through sign language is intriguing and suspenseful. They have developed a safe haven with rules and respect. That is until the humans come along. To be honest, the 3D is not a massive investment nor does it make a massive impact. The animation is good enough. Every time the humans enter the scene, you feel like the wind is being knocked out of the sails. It was great to see TV actors from the small screen get a bigger platform to perform but the characters are so clichéd and flat, that you find it hard to care. The time and energy is more focused on our primitive protagonists.

It was great to see Jason Clarke (Lawless) playing a normal good guy and he was probably the most memorable character . . . out of the humans. If anything it proved that Franco and Lithgow’s presences were very much missed. A passing reference with some video camera footage is we all get on old James ‘Squinty’ Franco. Keri Russell (The Americans) was the only female character that was so bland, it was such a shame. Any back story or mystery about the humans is soon exposed and leaves little interest. It felt like the writer had spent the time on the monkeys and thought, “Oh wait. We need some humans. Yeah, that will do”. It was great to see Gary Oldman but to be honest, anyone could have played him. All he did was cry or yell “They’re animals” over and over.

The main thing that kept this slackening piece going was the brewing rivalry between Koba and Caesar as Koba’s distrust for the humans seemed to threaten the very peace that Caesar worked hard to keep hold of. One thing that did irritate me slightly was once you have heard Caesar yell “No” or “Go” numerous times (with great conviction by Serkis), you can’t help but feel where is this going? We have seen all this before. For some, that will be enough. For others, you may be left wanting. Caesar is still a charismatic character and he steals the scene every time. But apart from Koba, there aren’t any memorable characters that can rival them.

It’s not all bad. Koba’s stake out sequences on the humans made for engaging viewing and when the action and suspense finally arrives, it delivers the goods. The final 20 minutes are riveting, explosive and action packed. However, you can’t help but feel that with the inevitable air of another sequel rearing its ugly head, that everything will either remain unresolved or be thrown up in the air. You find yourself picking out moments and guessing; this must be where the apes go full evil and enslave the humans, nope. Now, nope.

Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) does his best at taking over the helm but it all felt like build up. With confirmation that he will be directing the next instalment, two things are a must. More pace and better humans. Monkeys are A-OK. One slight qualm, how come Koba spoke more English than Caesar? Why aren’t they all speaking yet? But to be able to do sign language, hunt and build up a colony in ten years, some would say that’s plenty progress.

All in all, not bad. Fantastic animation, great visual and action pieces but a lagging pace and predictable human characters kill off what could have something so much better. 3/5

Currently ranked 64 out of 196!

I, FRANKENSTEIN REVIEW

i-frankenstein-new-poster

I want my money back.

I can’t find the words. I can’t believe something that looked so good, could be so bad.

That’s 90 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. A dull, plot holed mess with a decent cast playing poorly written and stocky characters. The 3D was wasted on the fantastic set pieces. BUT that doesn’t excuse a bad movie.

Despite a reasonably watchable opening sequence, you can’t help but pick at the endless plot holes. Look, I know these sort of films were never going to win critical plaudits. And I went in hoping for big, dumb fun monster movie. BUT even as a B-movie, it struggles to intrigue or entertain.

As soon as I saw those five wonderful worlds, my heart dropped. “From the producers of Underworld”. Okay, I actually didn’t mind the first Underworld. Kate Beckinsale’s my Kryptonite. What can I say?

Anyway, I, Frankenstein throws us straight into the Creature’s “birth”/”rebirth” back in the 18th Century. It zips along quite well and skims straight through the familiar drivel. Creature hates inventor. Inventor chases after creature. Hunts creature down. Creature falls in ice. Realises he is immune to extreme temperatures and suddenly has incredible super strength. Wait, whaaaatt?

However, this is soon shoved aside for a mental creature combat sesh with funny looking demon things and gargoyles fighting over the Creature. The special effects are decent and the only thing I can commend is the action. BUT once Eckhart’s creature is picked up by the Gargoyle Order, my interest plummeted.

Now Aaron Eckhart (you may remember him as Two Face in The Dark Knight) is a very good actor BUT even his deadpan grimacing only made things worse. He delivers the lines with conviction. It’s just a shame that the lines were so bad. My personal favourite being, “I think your boss is a demon prince”.

Once he is abducted by the Gargoyle order led by their Queen (Mirando Otto – The Lord of The Rings), you soon realise the mess you’re about to sit through. She explains the plot in a swift minute that evil demons want to destroy mankind and they need the Creature or his inventor’s “How to Resurrect Dead Bodies” diary to help. Simples.

Nah, The Creature ain’t got time ‘fo dat. He hates everyone and everything. So it flashes forward 200 years. 200 years?! Really? Which means 20 mindless minutes of Adam (Oh yeah they call him Adam because he is the first of his kind. Nice touch) moping around and hiding. Until he decides, “I’ve had enough”.

Slays some gargs which was pretty good to watch. Blades flying, demons evaporating in flames, gargoyles grunting, more please! Only to get caught by the Order. Again.

Cue more cliched talking with our “loner hero” refusing to take the call and save the day. That and the endless to-and-fro of Adam being captured by the demons, then the gargoyles, then some scientists.

All I kept thinking to myself was they have Frankenstein’s book to resurrect the dead. So why do they need Adam? This must have been a flaw that the writer couldn’t decide on. He’s proof that the book works so we need him, right? Nah, kill him. No, wait! We do need him. Make up your mind!

The beautiful Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck) does a passable English accent. Better than Amy Adam’s Oscar nominated one in American Hustle anyway. She is completely wasted as a generic scientist thrown into the mix. There is zero chemistry between her and Eckhart. The only surprise after all the predictable luvvy duvvy guff was that they didn’t get together!    

Bill Nighy just “Nighy-ed” it up as the evil demon prince Naberius and when he transformed into his demon form . . . My God! He looked like Ivan Ooze. I couldn’t fight back the belly laughs.

Otto’s Gargoyle Queen was one of the most pointless characters going. All she does is pull blank faces and stare into space. Not to mention the repetitive one liners and unnecessary regurgitation of obvious plot points.

I could go on, but I’m exhausting myself. Jai Courtney (Terminator: Genisys) was terrible as the Gargoyle Queen’s protector, Gideon. All he did was pout and sulk. His character looked badass. BUT he’s not even allowed to intervene. The Queen gives him the key to everything. And he can’t use it. Come on! Even if it looked like an amazing battle axe. Nope, still can’t.

Also, the Gargoyles are supposed to fight in the shadows. Yet by the frantic finale, they are flying openly around in broad daylight. Hovering outside a public train station because no one will report it or take pictures on their phones, right?

Eckhart may have looked hench, but they didn’t bother sorting out his scars that magically reappeared at different areas of his face! This was a joke. If only, they played it out as one. It was far too serious for its own good. Even when the Creature tries to explain the situation to Strahovski’s scientist, you just cringe.

Dull, uninteresting, hilarious for all the wrong reasons. I hope a sequel is not in the works. If there is, god help us all!

1.5/5