Lion Review

lion3Tonight I had the chance to see the Oscar nominated film Lion again and I loved it all over again. After I finished it occurred to me I never actually reviewed the film on my blog or channel. I got sick right around when I saw it and somehow it just never got done. It’s a shame because Lion is absolutely one of my favorite movies of 2016 (made my top 10 of the year) and a film you should check out while it is still in theaters.

lion-sunny-pawarYou can kind of divide Lion into 2 parts. The first part is about a little boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives with his Mother and family (particularly his brother Guddu) in a secluded village in India.

One day while waiting for Guddu to finish work he wanders onto a train and ends up days away from his family with no way to communicate who they are or where he is from. He then becomes one of the many lost children of India and these scenes are the most powerful of the movie.

One scene in particular moved me when he is treated kindly by someone but must realize just in the nick of time they have ulterior motives. When he runs away I wanted to cheer him on! All of these scenes are so well filmed by first time director Garth Davis. You feel the panic of the crowds and the confusion of little Saroo.

lion5Sunny Pawar is also phenomenal as Saroo. If he had gotten nominated over Dev Patel I wouldn’t have complained. He’s that great in the role.

Eventually he gets the opportunity to be adopted by a family in Tasmania played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. The scenes where he and his brother are assimilated into their new family are handled so beautifully. I think anyone who has experienced adoption will respond to their authenticity and raw emotional power.  Nicole Kidman is especially great as the mother who chose adoption as an opportunity to love more.

lion6Next we get to the second part of the film where Saroo is Dev Patel and he is a grown man starting hospitality training. While there he learns about Google Earth and begins a hunt to find his family in India.

Dev Patel is great as the adult Saroo (and very hunky I must say) and the screenplay does a wonderful job showing the ache a lost child might feel as a grown up. He yearns to reassure his brother and Mother that he is ok. At first his efforts are fruitless and he becomes kind of obsessed with it.

The whole time he is searching he worries his Mother and Father might see this as a betrayal, or that he is ungrateful for all they have done. I thought this was handled with such subtlety- capturing the feelings of many adopted children without sensationalizing or making adoption the enemy (I really believe in adoption advocacy if you didn’t know).

lion2The one part that doesn’t work that well in this section is Saroo’s relationship with Lucy played by Rooney Mara. They just didn’t have great chemistry and she felt extraneous to the core plot. But it is really my only big flaw with the film.

When I first saw Lion I loved it and have been surprised to hear some call it “Oscar bait”. I hate this term as I feel it is a way of criticizing films with ambition.  It’s similar to those who criticize the smart girl in class for studying too hard. Even if you use the term, I don’t think Lion qualifies. It’s just a movie with a great story, performances, cinematography, music and script. It’s the total package. Both times I’ve seen it I was completely absorbed and emotionally moved.

The fact it is a true story makes it even better. Rarely in Hollywood do we get a movie about genuinely good people who aren’t addicts or abusers. This is none of that. Both the family in India and Tasmania are good people that face challenges I could relate and empathize with. I thought it was all handled so beautifully that I can’t wait to own Lion on blu-ray.

Once again, I can’t believe this is Garth Davis’ first movie. What a tremendous accomplishment! I can’t wait to see what else he makes in his career.

If you want to see a movie about the triumph of a family, a beautiful soul and an incredible story watch Lion. It’s so good. I LOVED it!

Overall Grade- A (not A+ just because of the girlfriend part  but I loved this movie).

Advertisements

Man Who Knew Infinity Review

Man-Who-Knew-Infinity-posterToday I had the chance to see the new biopic called The Man Who Knew Infinity. While nothing too spectacular it is a solid inspirational true story about someone I knew nothing about before seeing the film.

Infinity stars Dev Patel as real-life mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Madras, India but had a knack for numbers and mathematical formulas. He even believed the formulas came as visions from God to him, and he knew he needed to share them with the world.

infinity2He also gets married to a gorgeous Devika Bhise who starts off doubting his endeavors but ends up supporting him going to England and meeting with professors at Cambridge. I thought her and Patel had a nice chemistry together and kind of wish the movie had just been about their relationship (of course that wouldn’t be true to life but I would love to see something else with the two of them in it).

infinityRamanujan meets a professor named GH Hardy played by Jeremy Irons (I guess this is his year for biopics with already appearing in Race). The two men become friends despite their cultural and religious differences. Ramanujan is all about the new idea while Hardy encourages him to find the proofs behind the inspiration.

inifnity3To be honest, this is where the movie lost me a bit. They weren’t successful in explaining the math to a math moron like myself and I got a little bit bored watching them at chalkboards working out equations. I’m sure what they were doing was groundbreaking but since I don’t understand the math or concepts it was hard to get excited. Theory of Everything had its problems but it at least made tough concepts easier to understand than this did. Same with Imitation Game.

infinity4The Man Who Knew Infinity ends up being a tragedy but that part of the film is highly predictable. Still I didn’t mind it following basic, by-the-numbers biopic formulas. I don’t need every movie I see to be new and different.

On the whole it is dry during all the math talk and the conversations between professors about whether to ‘grant the Indian fellowship’. That was boring but the relationships were good and the performances sincere. I liked supporting work from Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam, Stephen Fry and Arundhati Nag as Ramanujan’s mother.

Bi0pics on big names like rock stars, generals and inventors are great but I also enjoy these more obscure films as well. The Man Who Knew Infinity tells a good, if standard story and I’m glad I saw it.  I would recommend it a rental when it comes out at the Redbox or a stream on netflix.

Are any of you seeing The Man Who Knew Infitity? What did you think? What’s your favorite biopic? Walk the Line and My Left Foot are two of my favorites.

Overall Grade- B-

Second Best Marigold Hotel Review

best-exotic-hotel-249911Lately I’ve been very careful about the 2 movies I’ve seen in the theater to make sure I went at a time when the theater would be nearly empty because of my cough.  This was true yesterday as I finally got to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  This is of course a sequel to the original Marigold Hotel in 2012 which introduced us to a whole bunch of great British actors who are finding a new lease on life at a hotel designed for seniors in India.

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-Cast-WallpapersThis amazing cast includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel and more.  This sequel adds Richard Gere to the mix and he is one of the most attractive men over 60 I’ve ever seen.  We also get a far too brief appearance from the great David Strathairn.

BEST-EXOTIC-MARIGOLD-HOTELBasically the story is Maggie Smith’s Muriel Donnelly is now working with Dev Patel’s Sonny to run the hotel and they begin in America trying to court investors into financing a second venture.  Maggie Smith is so great. Sometimes I wish we could clone her so that she could be in every movie.  She turns what could be a very trite character into a real person I felt tied too.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) - Maggie SmithShe’s someone who has no children and yet she has found a place and people where she can literally grow old and leave an impact, be remembered.  As someone who also has no children and is not married I hope I can be so lucky and find a place like the Marigold Hotel when I get older.

The rest of the movie is fairly simple.  Sonny is getting married to the stunning Sunaina played by Tina Desai who is one of the most beautiful actresses I’ve ever seen in a movie. Gorgeous.

exotic hotel3He is stressed trying to purchase a new hotel and be prepared for inspectors who Richard Gere is.

We also get a lovely little back and forth romance between Bill Nighy’s Douglas and Judi Dench’s Evelyn.  It showed that making commitments to each other is not necessarily easier just because you are older.  All the actors elevate the material and make it far more engaging than it has any right to be.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelI could have done with a little less of the silly plot device of a hitman mistakenly ordered between Ronald Pickup’s Norman and Diana Hardcastle’s Carol but the way it ended was sweet and lovely.

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-5We also get to see Celia Imrie go between 2 suitors and get to know the chauffeur on the way. And Lillete Dubey is absolutely elegant and perfect as Dev Patel’s mother who has a relationship with Richard Gere (who can blame her).exotic hotel

I could totally see why you could tear this movie apart.  Is it predictable? Yes.  Is it full of tropes and contrivances? Yes.  Is it travel porn and a completely ridiculous notion of India and growing old? I haven’t experienced either but I suspect, Yes.

Was I completely charmed by it? Yes.

Sometimes all a movie needs to do is get the right group of actors together, play characters I like, that I want to see happy and tell me a conventional story.  Every last person in this movie I liked, I was rooting for.  It’s such a contrast to a movie like The Judge which is equally contrived but full of characters I greatly disliked. Everyone was such a jerk in that movie that I turned it off.

127_12636.jpg

There’s a place for the dark and brooding characters and stories but not in a light fluffy happy movie about people growing old.  Not in a family drama like The Judge.  Another example would be The Family Stone which gave me one unlikable character after another.  It’s Christmas for goodness sakes, give me someone to root for!

So, I could see the Second Best Marigold Hotel not being your cup of tea.  But if you like pleasant, breezy stories about good people finding happiness than it may be for you.  It’s especially lovely to have a movie with so many older relationships and actors elevating material above the script.

As far as content it is pretty squeaky clean.  There are relationships outside of marriage but nothing is really shown but that’s about it on the objectionable content scale.

It’s the kind of movie I will buy on blu-ray and pop in along with the original which I already own on a bad day when I need a pick me up.  Nothing wrong with that!

Overall Grade- B  Content Grade- A+