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).

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Paddington: A Review

paddingtonLast year I went into Mr Peabody and Sherman with a certain amount of dread.  Hollywood’s track record at adapting beloved franchises from the past has not been very good.  Inspector Gadget, Yogi Bear, Smurfs, Lorax, TMNT, Transformers Cat in the Hat, Garfield are some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. But to my great surprise Mr Peabody and Sherman was clever, funny, competently animated and an enjoyable time at the movies.

I had a similar experience with Paddington which is based on the popular children’s books by Michael Bond.  The trailer was very slapsticky and a dreaded January release made me nervous.  I was expecting the worst. But then I saw some youtube reviews from England praising the film and Rottentomatoes currently has it at 98%.  So, I went to see it today with my friend and her kids and was delightfully surprised!  Paddington is a completely charming family film.

paddington-tree_3059288cIf you didn’t know Paddington is about a bear family in Peru that are discovered by an explorer and taught English and how to serve tea and the joys of orange marmalade (the perfect food for a bear!). The explorer tells the bears that if they ever come to London they will have a home and about the child refuge program of WWII where orphans were given tags and left for strangers to welcome home.

An earthquake occurs causing the youngest Paddington to stow away and travel to London with a tag hoping to be welcomed. At first the English aren’t as friendly as he had hoped but he meets the Brown family led by the always luminous Sally Hawkins as the mother and the overly-cautious Hugh Bonneville as the father.

paddington4Paddington is clumsy and there are some Dennis the Menace moments with Mr Brown losing his cool at Paddington’s shenanigans but it was never over-kill and I enjoyed the scenes.  The kids are initially resistant to Paddington which I thought was an interesting choice but it made their eventual kinship all the more endearing.

paddington kidsIn many ways I think Paddington is very similar to a Muppets movie.  In fact, 20 years ago he would have looked more like Fozzie the Bear instead of being CG.  The key in a Muppets movie working is the human actors must play it straight while acting with a pig, frog, alien etc.  That is what happens in Paddington.  Nobody is surprised to be talking to or walking with a bear just like Kermit is treated like any other character in Muppets movies.

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This helped us stay away from the ‘OMG he’s actually a talking bear’ scenes, which have been done to death and the bear getting civilized because he is already drinking tea and making marmalade to start.

He’s a klutz but pretty quickly the movie moves to the main plot trying to find the explorer and we get introduced to a taxidermist played with great gusto by Nicole Kidman (who’s face actually looked semi-normal in this).

2014, PADDINGTON BEARShe has some hilarious interactions with the Brown’s neighbor Mr Curry played by Peter Capaldi who falls for her charms.

Peter_Capaldi__Hugh_Bonneville_and_Nicole_Kidman_in_brand_new_posters_for_PaddingtonJulie Walters is also great as the Brown’s aunt who lives with them.  She looks so different from Harry Potter movies I hardly recognized her but is very funny.  She senses the weather with her knees.

paddington mrs birdThe script is so well done by Paul King and Hamish McColl and I laughed a lot. The kids around me were laughing a lot and of the 3 kids that came with me 2 really liked it and 1 said she didn’t. Not sure why but 2/3 aint bad!

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The production design is so lovely. Whimsical without being over-the-top (like Tim Burton or Wes Anderson sometimes do).  There is a tree in the Brown’s house that changes from summer, winter, spring depending on moods.  The antique shop run by Jim Broadbent is perfect and the children’s bedrooms were magical without being cheesy.

paddington antiquesPaddington reminded me of Babe.  How many terrible animal kids movies have there been?  Well, Disney has a pretty bad one with Home on the Range. But then Babe comes out which is funny, sweet, and lovely movie that for my money is one of the best family films ever made (with a very underrated sequel that is brilliant).  I wouldn’t put Paddington at that level but I though it was really strong with a nice message about family, great design, very funny script and engaging performances. It’s just a winner.

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It is also a pretty wholesome film- no innuendo or winking to the camera although some of the jokes may be funnier to adults it is never in an uncomfortable or unseemly way.  One scene a character dresses in drag but it is played for laughs and isn’t offensive in any way.

There is also a scene where Paddington is in serious peril and a moment where the crowd watching gasped but overall it is a gentle movie the whole family will enjoy.

Any of you seen it?  Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Content Grade- A+, Overall Grade- A+ (yep, I really liked it!)

This makes me hopeful for Peanuts.  Maybe Hollywood can get 3 good adaptations of things I loved as a kid? Too much to hope for? We will see.