March 27, 2017

Movie Review: Lion *****

I didn't have time to write a review of Lion when I saw it in early January but I recently saw it again because it's one of those stories that stays with you. I was just as blown away this time, and once again I cried from beginning to end.
Sunny Pawar (right), is the young Saroo who gets lost and ends up 1200 miles from his home and somehow survives all alone on the streets of Calcutta, until authorities find him.
If his remarkable and heart-wrenching performance doesn't wreck you you don't have a heart.
Saroo grows up with a loving and supportive adoptive family and his life is seemingly perfect as he goes off to hotel management school and falls in love. But he's haunted by his long lost family. Through the magic of Google he embarks on a search for them, and the rest of the story seems impossible and unbelievable, but it's all true. The film is based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly.
Dev Patel (below) is the older Saroo, and deserving of his Academy Award nomination.
Go see this wonderful, moving film while it's still in theaters.
Five of five stars for Lion.

March 26, 2017

Movie Review: The Sense of an Ending **

The Sense of an Ending is a film that will attract older baby boomers because we love movies about ourselves. Plus it's a great cast (Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, among others) and stellar acting all around, particularly by Broadbent as Tony, a curmudgeon being revisited by his past.
There's a rather convoluted mystery at the heart of the story involving a girl Tony was involved with (Charlotte Rampling as Veronica) as a university student some fifty years ago. Veronica's mother has died and, oddly enough, left him something in her will that he has to reconnect with Veronica (of course) to get.
It sounds like an interesting premise but it's not. Tony hasn't seen Veronica in all those years, doesn't appear to have ever thought about her, doesn't seem to be carrying a torch. So, except for simple curiosity it's hard to understand why he cares.
But if he didn't there wouldn't be a film. That wouldn't be a big loss.
I have a couple of nits to pick (other than the entire film): Tony has an unmarried daughter who has decided to have a child on her own and is hugely pregnant. By default, Tony is her Lamaze partner, which was unseemly to me as he sat behind her with his hands on her belly. Call me a prude but as much as I loved my dad I would never have wanted him to do that with me.
There's also a gratuitous scene in a bar where Tony has told someone he went to university with Veronica and the guy tells him he doesn't look old enough to have gone to university 50 years ago. Well, yes, he does. And then some.
I wish this had been a more engaging story. I really wanted to like it. The only thing to recommend it is the cast but excellent acting is not enough to overcome boredom.
Two out of five stars for The Sense of an Ending.

March 24, 2017

Movie Review: Personal Shopper ***

Personal Shopper is directed and co-written by Olivier Assayas, who also directed The Clouds of Sils Maria. Once again Kristin Stewart (Maureen) is cast as the assistant to a diva, this time she's a (guess what...) personal shopper to a celebrity of some sort. We don't know much about that celebrity but it's not necessary - it's not her story.
There was something a little "off" (not in a bad way) about Clouds, and unfinished, and Personal Shopper has a similar feel; they both make you scratch your head and work to figure it out, something you may or may not be inclined to do.
Along with her day job Maureen is a medium, as was her now-dead twin brother and she moves though the movie waiting for a sign from him and dealing with ghosts who may or may not be the twin.
The ghost element is a little silly at times (or all the time). Kristin Stewart is good in the role, though not as good, in my opinion, as other critics seem to think.
Three of five stars for Personal Shopper.

Movie Review: Land of Mine *****

Land of Mine is a beautifully crafted film.
Nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, it's the story of 1945 Denmark; the German occupation is ending and German POWs are tasked with removing hundreds of thousands of land mines.
The war-weary Danish sergeant who's in charge of a group of young soldiers struggles with his hatred of the enemy and his own humanity.
This is a heart-wrenching story with some small heart-warming bits that help relieve the tension; difficult film to watch but worth it.
Five stars out of five for Land of Mine.