Sunday, January 22, 2017

Movie Review … Lion

Family reunion shows are amongst the most popular on TV. Usually they are an excuse for much weeping with violins swirling in the background.  Amidst the clichés are some heart-wrenching tales of forced separation and dire circumstances.  Although commercial television networks present them in clichéd fashion, the core stories featured are often compelling.  ‘Lion’ takes its cue from the ‘long lost family’ genre.  It follows a familiar trajectory but is no less engrossing as its televisual brethren.

Saroo (Dev Patel) lives with his adoptive Australian parents John (David Wenham) and Sue (Nicole Kidman).  Despite having been with them for 25 years and thinking of them as his parents, Saroo longs to uncover his past.  In this quest he is helped by girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara).  Travelling to India in search of his biological family, he uncovers a tale of heart-break and lost opportunities.  Determined to reveal the mysteries of his past, Saroo’s life is radically altered by what he discovers.

Capably directed by Garth Davis, ‘Lion’ is about identity.  Although Saroo has carved out his own life, his sense of identity haunts him.  Although raised in Australia, his Indian heritage still lingers.  How he grapples with this drives ‘Lion’s story.  His love for his adoptive parents is real but so is the one for his birth parents.  This emotional conflict affects those around him in interesting ways.  Davis ensues these elements are expertly interwoven in a captivating narrative until the final denouncement.

The cinematography of the Australian and Indian locales is sublime.  It effectively captures two different cultures in all their beauty.  This adds to Saroo’s battle between home and heart.  As strongly portrayed by Patel, it is easy sympathising with his journey and his efforts in finding closure.  Occasionally the screenplay drags with an overlapping of exposition taking away focus.  ‘Lion’s central issue is always shown with each character attempting to make the best of a difficult situation.

‘Lion’ is a solid drama making the most of its premise.  Whilst it over-indulges in emotional beats on occasion, it generally tells its story well.  True tales are often more compelling than fictional ones which ‘Lion’ highlights in under-stated fashion.

 
Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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Movie Review … Xxx: The Return Of Xander Cage

‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’ is often quoted.  This is especially true in Hollywood where actors and producers revive old franchises in the hope of regaining lost glory.  Vin Diesel, for instance, was once a rising action star who initially discarded his popularity by refusing to appear in anymore ‘Fast and Furious’ or ‘XXX’ films.  Due to dwindling star power, Diesel returned to the ‘Fast and Furious franchise which considerably raised his stocks.  ‘XXX: The Return of Xander Cage’ continues his career redemption with a litany of explosions sure to please many admirers.

Long thought dead, extreme sports star Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is forced out from the cold.  Lured by NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette), Cage is tasked with bringing down a mysterious villain controlling Pandora’s Box, a powerful weapon. Gathering a crack team of adrenaline junkies, Cage’s quest spans the globe as he tries to save the world from Armageddon.

The best thing one could say about ‘XXX: The Return of Xander Cage’ is that it’s well produced nonsense.  Those looking for depth or subtlety won’t find it as the film exists purely as an action extravaganza and explosive spectacle.  In that regards it works very well with each high-octane scene lovingly filmed within an inch of their lives.  Although billed as director, D.J. Caruso doesn’t have to do much other than to control the excess in which the production wants to go.

The plot isn’t much and neither is the acting.  From Diesel onwards, each performer’s tongue is firmly in their cheeks as they spout increasingly silly dialogue.  Their handling of the action scenes are admirable even if most are hard to watch.  This is an incredibly fast-paced film with the editing zipping through each stunt with high speed.  This detracts from enjoying each sequence and produces more headaches than awe.  The sense of fun permeates throughout, making the action bearable even if you can’t take anything seriously.

‘XXX: The Return of Xander Cage’ is disposable celluloid rubbish that will have its fans.  It’s enjoyably silly and frequently underscores the over the top nature of the threadbare script.  This could be another franchise for Diesel to sink his muscles into with his brawn and biceps often more startling than the ridiculous hokum in which he participates.


 Movie Review Rating out of 10:  5

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Movie Review … Jackie

Film biographies are like a form of cinematic karaoke.  You watch an actor impersonate someone’s rhythm with moves and style matched.  Although we know it isn’t the real thing, a close facsimile is usually enjoyable if the story or melody is strong.  ‘Jackie’ carries its silver screen tune with ease.  As with any in the genre, what is seen should be taken with a grain of salt.  No one can truly know how a subject felt or did at any given time but ‘Jackie’ captures the essence of its subject with the style for which she was renowned.

After the assassination of American President John F Kennedy, his wife, First Lady Jackie (Natalie Portman), retreats to seclusion.  Trying to cope with the aftermath of the terrible event, she resolves to maintain his legacy.  Helped by his brother Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard), Jackie charts a course for a new future.  With the constant glare of the media around, her actions are closely examined.  Preserving the Kennedy name is one Jackie strives to do in spite of the naysayers determined to destroy all she and her husband built.

‘Jackie’ very much rests on Portman’s shoulders.  Tasked with conveying the graceful determination of the subject, she equips herself admirably.  You feel the genuine despair and strength driving her in the immediate storm of her husband’s death.  In some ways she was an early media manipulator in her ability knowing what headlines were needed.  That wasn’t a bad thing as she had to control the flow of information that could easily have been skewed.  Her poise when dealing with what lay ahead after the assassination is expressed admirably in Portman’s hands.

The rest of ‘Jackie’ is hit and miss.  Whilst the locations and integration of old and new footage are excellent, the story needs work.  There are many repetitive scenes covering the same ground which only appear to exist to extend the run-time.  The musical score is another issue.  Although incredibly grand and unique to listen to, it often distracts from the screenplay’s points.  Silence is often more golden than booming noise where viewers should feel the emotions than have them musically spoon-fed.

Despite aspects not matching the high quality performances, ‘Jackie’ nonetheless presents an interesting historical snap-shot.  Elegant and generally engaging it doesn’t foul the next of movie biographies with a woman’s strength in a time of crisis laid bare in remarkable fashion.

 
Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

Agree with Patrick's Movie Review? Then please use the comment box.

Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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